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.
Sure, it was a Pasifika story – and not a new one, truth be told – and yes, it spoke to me in a cultural/ethnic and personal way. It had wonderful acting. Excellent direction. Technical stuff that was invisible which meant the whole was seamless.
What I had witnessed was professional theatre.
All too often, the Pasifika theatre I’ve watched has been self-conscious and either presented as just entertainment or entertainment-with-a-message. For me and my very limited theatre-going/research budget, there is:
entertainment – the easy laughs, the bear-with-us-we’re-only-humble-performers, and the rush to production;
and then there is engagement: that there is a point to the whole of the performance, that care is taken to respect both the material and audience, and that craft and skill will elevate the theatre experience to something nearing an out-of-body experience.
I knew there was a good reason why I hazarded “a pointer to the future of Pasifika theatre” in my original post: Hypothesis One engaged me on more levels than I expected. I don’t think I’ve walked away from Pasifika theatre like this since… my first ever holy-shit-wow introduction to it two decades ago as an audience member.
We don’t have stocktakes or inspection days at Fortress Mamea where the menagerie present themselves front and centre with clean nails and shiny coats.
We do have a standing order of battle: our Forward Operating Base (FOB) Pi*, The Dog, The Goldfish, and The Chickens. I like to keep The Amphibian, The Kaimanawa Pony (Goddess permitting) and The Kitten** in reserve.
At Goodbye My Feleni HQ this phase of operation is not called ‘getting one’s ducks in a row’ – Jenni insists that we call it getting ready to stomp on your shit.
* Pi – Samoan for honeybee (pronounced ‘pee’), rather than the Greek letter and irrational number.
** Yes, an update on the expanded menagerie will follow, complete with pictures for your desktop, laptop and phone wallpapers.
I’ve seen more titles this year than in any other since official records began in 2003. I’d like to think the year’s expanded viewing-slash-research goes some way toward explaining why posts on this blog have tended towards commentary rather than craft.
Tropa De Elite (Elite Squad) and Tropa De Elite – O Inimigo Agora E Outro (Elite Squad – The Enemy Within) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Never Let Me Go
The Angel’s Share
Dredd This Must Be the Place
End of Watch
Yes, that’s more than ten for the year but those 2011-and-earlier titles were just so damned good that I had to name-drop them.
Panama-hat-tips to The Good Wife, Mad Men, Justified, Nurse Jackie and Breaking Bad for continuing to be must-see telly three or more seasons into their respective runs. It’s sad that Mad Men and Breaking Bad will finish in the coming year but all good things do come to an end.
Hung – Season 2
Justified – Season 3
The Good Wife – Seasons 3-4
Inside Men – Season 1
Dirk Gently – Season 1
Game of Thrones – Seasons 1-3
Mad Men – Season 5
Nurse Jackie – Season 4 Hounds The Newsroom – Season 1
Hit & Miss
Longmire – Season 1
The Golden Hour Breaking Bad – Season 5
The Bletchley Circle
Monroe – Season 2
Boardwalk Empire – Season 1
Vegas – Season 1
The Sopranos – Season 1
Late adopter excuse/s for ‘discovering’ Smith, Boardwalk Empire and Sopranos.
A great year for UK telly with The Bletchley Circle and Hit & Miss.
And sun-hat-tips to the excellent The Golden Hour that almost, almost, made me want to watch the Olympics, and the lamented Hounds.
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.