Last month, Auckland Theatre Company‘s Literary Manager, Philippa Campbell, invited the Goodbye My Feleni crew to join ATC’s 2013 Making Scenes programme. We accepted, of course. What this means is we get a two-day workshop with a public reading on Thursday 25 July 2013, 6:30pm at ATC, Mount Eden War Memorial Hall, Lower Ground Floor, 487 Dominion Road, Mount Eden.
Shadon & Amelia will be directing, Jenni is producing, and yours truly will be on hand to eat the actors’ morning and afternoon teas. Speaking of which (cue shameless name-dropping), assisting us with this stage of Goodbye My Feleni‘s development are:
Further to my earlierburblings, it’s only fair to give my thoughts on the latest iteration of P Lab’s latest work*. Le Tonu (The Decision) spends a day – the birthday of the family patriarch – with three generations of a Samoan family, each with its expectations of life both in New Zealand and in the 21st century.
The actor’s are more polished in their roles – to be expected in a second go-round – and just as near pitch-perfect as last time. The direction is tighter and nigh invisible – the pacing, movement and tone enough to move me to tears again. And the story – very relevant to any adult with parents well into their retirement years – is as sharply told and succinctly performed as before. It doesn’t overstay its welcome – its hour-long running time is over before you notice it – and grips from beginning to end.
So was I as enamoured of this run as last year? No. This is due in large part to my familiarity with the plot – a lot of the material has carried over from its maiden season, with some beats deepened, and others dropped (and obviously not missed) – and with familiarity a few flaws and Hitchcockian fridge-moments can be discerned. It’s thanks to the collective’s active ingredients of talent, experience and skills that an entertaining and moving evening of theatre is pretty much guaranteed.
Do I recommend this to friends, family and random strangers? If they missed last year’s run, then absolutely. If, like me, friends/family/strangers have seen the previous season and loved it, then I’d suggest that it’s optional – they certainly won’t be disappointed if they revisit the old man’s birthday party.
Disclosure: the co-directors, Shadon Meredith & Amelia Reid-Meredith, are directing the 2013 premiere season of Goodbye My Feleni, while P Lab principal Fasitua Amosa was in To’ona’i.
* Don’t worry: reviews of local/ethnic theatre will be rare things here.
P Lab‘s maiden production, Hypothesis One: a compound reaction from New Zealand Samoans, is a devised piece that is not the kind of theatre I generally have in mind for an evening out. The main reason for my knee-jerk aversion is “devised” (a natural enough prejudice for a closet control freak writer like myself).
Earlier this evening, The Boy and I went because we had connections (see disclosure below). With only three actors – Fasitua Amosa, Max Palamo and Beulah Koale – a large and varied extended Samoan family is sketched in around a dementing 91 year old grandfather (Palamo), his dutiful adult son (Amosa), and his doting grandson (Koale). That a mere three actors achieved this seamlessly – along with a good few flashbacks – is a tribute to their craft and devising, as well as to their directors. Co-directed by Shadon Meredith and Amelia Reid-Meredith, the play moves, the story develops, and – best of all for me – is beautifully understated.
Sure, the piece is a bit rough in places, and a bit thin – but it is as a theatre experience that it succeeds almost perfectly: I was transported; I was there. And not only that, I’m still processing my almost visceral cultural reaction to the piece – as a Samoan male audience member, I was just floored by it.
Hypothesis One is a pointer to the future of Pasifika theatre: New Zild theatre that’s also Pasifika theatre, and vice versa.