Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

16/07/2016 - 30/07/2016

Auckland Theatre Company's NEXT BIG THING 2016

Production Details

It’s 1993 and in a church hall in Grey Lynn good Samoan girls Stevie and Sing are about to change their lives forever when they form their band ANGELS. But will these BFFs remain the same when they have to choose between their faith and future fame?

AUCKLAND THEATRE COMPANY’S NEXT BIG THING – YOUTH THEATRE FESTIVAL – 2016: A wild ride of faith, love and revolution  

Auckland Theatre Company (ATC) will send audiences on a wild ride through the Basement Theatre for this year’s Next Big Thing (NBT) from 15 – 30 July.

The dynamic 12-night festival will feature three original works, live music, new writing and fresh stories in a season focused on faith, love and revolution. Involving over 60 young performers, creators and crew, NBT provides a dynamic platform to foster, develop and showcase vibrant new talent.

The ATC youth company, which provides a bridge between training and the professional industry for up-and-coming young practitioners, is celebrating its eighth anniversary this year. It has grown from strength to strength, this year bringing in some of the industry’s most daring, bold and experimental professionals.

Exciting young professional actors Jordan Mooney (Once on Chunuk Bair, Hillary, Westside 2, Ash vs the Evil Dead), Kalyani Nagarajan (Polo), Caleb Wells (Lord of the Flies, Westside 2) and Arlo Gibson (Shortland Street) were all involved in NBT just before their acting careers took off. 

Actor, director and playwright Ahi Karunaharan (Tea, The Mourning After, Mumbai Monologues) will lead Shoulda Woulda Coulda; a devised piece exploring protest and revolution in a mash up that is part riot / part call-to-action. Ahi asks of his young cast, what will you fight to the death for?

Bronwyn Bradley (Go Girls, Sons, The Good Soul of Szechuan) will direct Angels (Reborn), an adapted version of the Samoan play with songs, Angels, by Tanya Muagututi’a and Joy Vaele.

Funny, heart-warming and ultimately touching, this rollercoaster story of the rise and fall of a teenage band is set in 1993 and features retro tunes, diva hits and gospel standards. During its world premiere in 2009, it was described as, “A voice of its own for Pasifika women and leaves us with food for thought as well as remembered laughter.”

Benjamin Henson is the mastermind behind Bravado! – the third show in the NBT line up. The award-winning director has been shaking things up since his arrival from London with his experimental company Fractious Tash. Most recently, they presented a sell-out season of an all-male take on The Importance of Being Earnest (Earnest) at Q Theatre and an all-male production of Titus at the Pop-up Globe. 

He will be working alongside director Naomi Cohen (Lysistrata, Puss) and a full-female writing team of up and comers, including comedian Natasha Hoyland and Beanie Maryse-Ridler, whose debut play Defending the JJ Mac recently had a successful season at the Basement. Bravado! will also feature live band Galaxy Bear who will create a bold new musical experience.

Actor, director and playwright Ahi Karunaharan (Tea, The Mourning After, Mumbai Monologues) will lead Shoulda Woulda Coulda; a devised piece exploring protest and revolution in a mash up that is part riot / part call-to-action. Ahi asks of his young cast, what will you fight to the death for?

In March, over 100 young people auditioned for a role in NBT, and the cast will be announced in late April after they have undergone an intensive workshop.

Don’t miss out on the chance to experience these three original works, overflowing with lively music, razor-hot talent and laughs a-plenty, you might even find something worth fighting for.

Venue: Basement Theatre
Dates: 15 – 30 July, 7.30pm
Tickets: or (09) 309 0390 

Set design: Dan Williams
Production Manager: Jamie Johnston
Dramaturg: Jo Smith and Phoebe Mason 

Youth , Theatre ,

1 hr


Review by Matt Baker 26th Jul 2016

Written by Tanya Muagututi’a and Joy Vaele, Angels (Re:Born) is the most scripted narrative of the evening. Think Josie and the Pussycatswith a Pasifika style and religious undertones and you’re halfway through experiencing the show. That’s because the script is paint by numbers, but some of the numbers are missing, and the conflict lacks an organic flow.

Fortunately, the entire cast, especially Lyncia Muller, have excellent comedic skill, which carries the entirety of the show. [More


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Energetic insights into life of young #2

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 18th Jul 2016

Angels (Reborn) written by Tanya Muagututi’a and Joy Vaele takes us deep within the subculture of Pacific Island church life where music offers an opening through which four mates can escape the all-encompassing influence of their religion.

It is rare to find contemporary drama in which religious convictions are treated with respect and director Lavinia Uhila lets her cast speak from the heart as they use singing, dance and irrepressible humour to express their conflicted emotions. [More]


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Impossible not to enjoy

Review by Leigh Sykes 17th Jul 2016

As we wait in the foyer for the doors to open, we are joined by someone in a traditional White Sunday dress and hat, moving among us, saying hello and making us welcome. As we move into the performance space, our host (Saale Ilaua) joins us, sitting next to some audience members and being warm and polite as we take in our surroundings. 

The set (designed by Daniel Williams) resembles the sort of shared community space that has perennially been used for band practices – hence the drums, keyboard and guitars and bland walls – and other community gatherings. As the play goes on, the flexibility of the space, supported and enhanced by Kate Burton’s lighting design, becomes apparent, giving us a play that can move swiftly from place to place and time to time without removing us from the moment.

The play explodes into life as Sing (Josephine Mavaega) and Stevie (Mile Fane) burst into the space singing and literally bouncing with excitement for their White Sunday performance that is due to take place. They are soon joined by Eleni (Lyncia Muller) and Sale (Dylan Thuraisingham) and our central quartet of characters is complete. It quickly becomes apparent that these characters are only ten years old and that one of our protagonists, Stevie, is a PK (Pastor’s Kid). This fact is the cause of endless annoyance but also opportunity for the characters as they discuss how much they are looking forward to their White Sunday performance, overseen by their Teacher.

Described by Eleni as ‘a man-lady’, Saale Ilaua’s Teacher is as demanding and vicious to the children as he was warm and welcoming to the audience, and we feel for the students with each slap of correction. All of this is done with high-energy and much humour, so that the audience is pulled immediately into this very specifically Samoan world.

The central performers in this scene absolutely nail the manners and preoccupations of their ten year old characters, capturing all the nuances of what being friends, and maybe more than friends, looks and feels like at that age. Their facial expressions are immediately recognisable and their singing voices are beautiful and strong. The performance of their White Sunday play is a particular highlight: truthful to the characters and extremely funny for the audience, who spend much time recognising and responding to the specifics of the humour and situations.

Following their excellent performance, which Eleni describes as ‘awesome’, the group discusses how they might develop and name their band, and within this scene the seeds of future discord are sown. Sing is working hard for God while Stevie has more earthly desires and this central disagreement plays out through the rest of the play.

Time passes with a wonderfully simple transition and our characters have now reached eighteen years old. Some things haven’t changed much, since the drive to follow her passion for music is still just as strong for Stevie, and Sing’s passion for all things Christian is still just as strong for her. Eleni and Sale continue to be voices of anarchy or reason respectively, depending on the situation, and so we are set up for things to start happening for our central characters.

It is at this point that the story (written by Tanya Muagututi’a and Joy Vaele) lags a little, as the dialogue spends a touch too long establishing the new situations for Sing, Stevie, Eleni and Sale. We see our characters in a new location and experience the first of Ahrin Swift-Mayor’s amusing and well-drawn cameos, and there is still much humour, but I have a feeling that some of the action is in place because it is enjoyable for the cast, rather than because it moves the events of the play forward. Although the audience enjoys many of the interchanges, there is a drop in energy as events play out in ways that don’t surprise us too much. 

The band’s first gig in a nightclub is interrupted by the arrival of Stevie’s father and the discord between Sing and Stevie grows to the point that it seems things can never be the same again.

The pace picks up again as Sing, Eleni and Sale attend an evangelical rally by Kenny Milne, played with hilarious force by Swift-Mayor, whose attempt to drive the devil out of Stevie when she joins her friends has the audience in stitches. Having brought Stevie and Sing back together, the end of the story seems a little rushed, leaving me with a feeling that a few tweaks with the pacing of the writing could have paid dividends. However, the message that it can be very difficult to follow your dreams, particularly when other people believe they can make choices for you, is well-realised.

That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy this show – I do, because the strong and talented cast make it impossible not to enjoy. Fane and Mavaega bring wonderful assurance and huge singing talent to their roles, never falling into the trap of making their desires stereotypical or unbelievable. Muller is a delight as Eleni, whose wisecracks and audience interaction keep us entertained and engaged. Thuraisingham has a tough role, often as the one most likely to be disappointed or overlooked, but he brings dignity and integrity to his performance. Ilaua is both funny as Teacher and dignified as Pastor. Swift-Mayor brings commitment and a variety of different energies and humours to each of the cameos he plays.

This is a very well-performed tale which touches on some interesting and important issues to do with identity, taking risks and following your dreams, and it is right that we should hear those issues delivered by such talented and committed performers. 

Links to other Next Big Thing reviews:
Shoulda Woulda Coulda


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