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.