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Print Version

written and directed by Dianna Fuemana
presented by newwayinTHEATRE

at Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland
From 16 Mar 2012 to 17 Mar 2012

Reviewed by Grant Hall, 17 Mar 2012

Birds, written and directed by Dianna Fuemana, is a dramatic, topical and fast paced urban story of a Niuean mother and son living in Avondale, Auckland. Fuemana shines a mirror on what life is like for a teenager entering adulthood and his mother, a solo parent who struggles to guide them through turbulent stages of their life together.

This mirror Fuemana shines produces a colourful, physical and powerfully insightful slice of suburban social realism, Niuean style. The story is tight, well directed and told mostly by means of monologue with short integrated periods of dialogue. The play is a successful blend of light and shade, humour and poignant drama.

Fuemana adopts the methodology of physical theatre to help propel the story and this suits the content and urban context of the play. This technique allows the inherent and dynamic movement abilities of the two actors to shine.

The primary power of this play is with the acting. It transports the story as it dances, prances, jumps and shouts. The performers thrust the narrative in your face, like graffiti, like the wail of a siren, like a good hiding and even like a rock-filled poi!

Ali Foa'i plays a very believable Tommy and array of other characters, which he expresses and weaves into his performance with skill. He manages to communicate angst and passion in a persuasive and realistic manner, without going over the top, which would run the risk of rendering his central character a stereotypical caricature. Another highlight is his portrayal of Tommy's infatuation, Ngahuia, that he handles with effeminate streetwise aplomb.

Nora A'ati is a very convincing mum, auntie and an eclectic united nations of characters from the multicultural world of Avondale. Her portrayal of Moka though is pivotal, as it is central to the narrative tension, and she deals it up, serves us with a dose of domestic and maternal reality. Like her counterpart Foa'i in this two hander, she navigates the transitions between a significant list of characters, in monologue and dialogue, in an adept, mature way.

Both actors should be congratulated on their performances.

The set and lighting is minimal with only two props: fluorescent pink and blue spray cans which are sprayed to good effect! The show features a central projection screen on which is shown a montage of urban and domestic imagery as well as a series of New Zealand Niuean statistics.

The A-V content, which is mostly supportive in creating an urbanised and site-specific context, could be further developed and integrated more successfully within the play's narrative. The lighting is simple and particularly effective in theNiueIslandreflections.

Birds is based firmly within a Niuen perspective, though its central themes of cultural detachment and societal conflict are universal within the general Pacific Island diaspora existing in New Zealand. The play is another new and important piece of Pacific theatre that proclaims significance and relevance alongside a strong growing foundation of contemporary Pacific stories.

This play is well worth taking in, it's worth the hop, skip and jump to Mangere Arts Centre and if you cant make it to this short season, keep an eye out for it as I am confident it will, like the Birds of its title, migrate to a venue near you in the near future.
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See also reviews by:
 Sharu Delilkan (Theatre Scenes - Auckland Theatre Blog);