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.