Aranui High School, Christchurch

16/07/2009 - 18/07/2009

The Forge at The Court Theatre, Christchurch

22/07/2009 - 15/08/2009

Production Details

ANGELS – World Première of Samoan Musical Comedy

On July 22 ANGELS, the new Samoan comedy by Tanya Muagututi’a and Joy Vaele, begins its season at The Forge as part of the 2009 Christchurch Arts Festival (after a brief community season at Aranui High School).

A co-production between The Court Theatre and Pacific Underground (the first collaboration between the two organisations), ANGELS was conceived when Muagututi’a told a friend "how cool it would be to write a play about Samoan women in a band. [They] said, ‘So write it.’… I approached Joy to work on this show because I thought it was time – time for us to put our stories on paper; and time for us as Pacific Island and Pacific Underground women to let everyone know what we’re on about."

Artistic Director of The Court Theatre Ross Gumbley says "Both Pacific Underground and The Court Theatre wanted to make the production as accessible to the Pacifica community as possible". Subsequently ANGELS enjoyed five preview performances at Aranui High School before moving to The Forge. Director Robert Gilbert says "I have found it deeply gratifying to see ANGELS through to full production. As someone who has links with Aranui High School, Pacific Underground and The Court Theatre, I have found this unique partnership particularly rewarding."

ANGELS boasts a strong cast: Bronwyn Turei (TV2’s GO GIRLS), Sela Leavasa (TIL DEATH DO US PART), Cassie Baker (last seen at The Forge in BAGHDAD, BABY! and most recently in the NZ première season of MISS SAIGON) and Joy Vaele (co-writer, regular performer with Pacific Underground and cast member of SIONE’S WEDDING) act and sing live as the titular girl band. Rounding out the cast are Ave Sua (another PU regular who wrote, directed and starred in RANGI AND MAU’S AMAZING RACE earlier this year) and young actors Monique Togiaso and Josephine Mavaega (who share the role of Maia over the season).

The creative team includes set design by Julian Southgate, costumes by Pam Jones, lighting/sound design by Josh Major and musical direction by Pos Mavaega (who composed original songs for the production with Tanya Muagututi’a). Aranui High School students Joey Chamberlain and Tara Cattermole have been involved as technical assistant and assistant stage manager respectively.

Response has already been positive for this new Samoan comedy – Theatreview says ANGELS "finds a voice of its own for Pasifika women and leaves us with food for thought as well as remembered laughter."

COMMUNITY SEASON – Aranui High School
Performance dates:  July 16-18
Performance times:  7:30pm Thursday; 2pm & 7:30pm Friday and Saturday
Tickets:  All tickets $12
Bookings:  The Aranui Community Trust, 37 Hampshire St; 963 7070 (9am-4pm)

THE FORGE SEASON – The Forge at The Court Theatre
Performance dates:  22 July – 15 August
Performance times:  6:30pm Monday / Thursday; 8pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday (no show Sundays).
Tickets:  Adults $30, Senior Citizens $25, Tertiary Students $20, Group discount (10+) $20, 30U Club $12

Bookings:  The Court Theatre, 20 Worcester Boulevard; 963 0870 or 

Cast:  Bronwyn Turei, Sela Leavasa, Monique Togiaso, Josephine Mavaega, Joy Vaele, Cassie Baker and Ave Sua



Rich Pasifika flavour with a twist worth waiting for

Review by Steph Walker 27th Jul 2009

Pacific Underground has been in Christchurch for 16 years, telling stories of Pasifika in a city not known for having a lot of brown faces. Angels continues that tradition, with a story firmly based in the heavy hand religion has on Samoan women, combined with soul and gospel music. It is great to see them working in partnership with Operate Trust and the Court Theatre to bring this production to life.

Sing (Bronwyn Turei), Stevie (Sela Leavasa), Eleni (Joy Vaele) & Rosie (Cassie Baker) have been friends from their first White Sunday, along with Sale (Ave Sua).  They all have dreams of making it big in the music world, forming The Angels, an all girl band who play in the church, and (secretly) in nightclubs. The two hour play is framed around preparations for Stevie’s 30th Birthday, one of the many examples we see of the steadfast commitment this group of women have for each other.

The Samoan flavour of Angels is strong, starting from the aqua blue set, cleverly designed by Julian Southgate, and continuing on with the religion that both supports and undermines the women throughout the 17 year span of the play.

At first a retelling of the Parable of Ruth, the group’s White Sunday performance, Angels ends up reaching much further, delving in to Samoan girl power, the power of women and the obstacles we can overcome with the right attitude, a bit of sass and a good dose of humour.

All on stage are consummate musicians, the tunes (by Pos Mavaega & Tanya Muagututi’a) so catchy I could sing them to you now. The cast started tentatively but by the second half had hit their straps.

It is such an ensemble piece for the four women it is hard to single out any one great performance, but Bronwyn Turei, as Sing, gives a sensitive performance: spanning about twenty years in one show is no mean feat! Ave Sua, as the token male actor, does an awesome job of playing the token male of the group of friends, Sale, as well as the archetypal Samoan pastor. One of his best touches is the young Sale, in 1984, resplendent in one white glove and aviators paying homage to Michael Jackson. Shamon to that.  

At the heart of this play is a great Pasifika ‘chick-flick’ style work. But we have to get through a lot to get to this, including a lot of flashbacks and flash-forwards that get more and more confusing as we go on. There is a subplot where Sing’s daughter Maia (played with verve by Monique Togiaso) has leukaemia, which, while bringing the women together even more, could really be taken out in the interests of the work being a more manageable length.

I’m glad I do stay with the play though: the twist is better than any I’ve seen in recent works. This is a play rich in Pasifika flavour and deep in the Samoan culture. It deserves more development time to make it shine even more.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Make a comment

Voices of Pasifika women: musical, comical, thought-provoking

Review by Lindsay Clark 18th Jul 2009

This premiere production of the Samoan comedy Angels is the lively outcome of collaboration between The Operate Trust’s commitment to new writing, The Court Theatre’s commitment to fresh theatre experience and above all, it draws on talent and real-life inspiration that has fuelled the ground breaking Pacific Underground company for almost two decades.

With such a background, it was to be expected that the production would be an interesting one. In the event, Robert Gilbert’s resourceful production goes further. It finds a voice of its own for Pasifika women and leaves us with food for thought as well as remembered laughter.

The story is set as preparations for a 30th birthday party are gathering momentum in a mum’s bright living room, whose décor speaks of faith and family. Set into the walls are cupboards of various shapes and sizes, which as they are opened, trigger memory sequences to establish a wider world where family, friends, the Church and music are woven together , sometimes frayed but ultimately rock solid.

The structure of the play raises the problem of frequent transitions as the action passes from present to past, so that two story strands can proceed. The cupboard solution works well to introduce the shifts, but is initially a little puzzling as the characters themselves change so little. Not until the highly entertaining rendering of a remembered White Sunday do things really fall into place for me, but as the season progresses in the compact venue of The Forge (I saw the preview season at Aranui) the arrangement may become clearer.

As always, it is the characters themselves who engage our fullest attention and there is no shortage of vigorous talent in this production. A pair of cousins lies at the centre of events: showbiz singer Stevie, and Sing, who is raising a daughter, Maia. It is conveyed in all its turbulence by ebullient Sela Leavasa (Stevie) and the versatile Bronwyn Turei (Sing), who has the widest emotional distance of all to cover.

They are supported strongly by Joy Vaele and Cassie Baker as friends forever, Ave Sua playing all the male roles and Monique Togiaso as Maia (this role will also be played by Josephine Mavaega).

Their collective work is full of colour and musicality, for the girls form a band as an escape from the strict regime of Church and patriarchy. There is room for light and shade in the performances at this stage, with the full-on impact of highly charged playing not quite aligned to the shifts of time and fortune we are asked to embrace.

That being said, the work has appealing warmth and the overriding theme of loyalty and love is transparently played.

Perhaps the most important feature of the play is the voice it brings to our stage, setting out a world in terms we can see and feel. In these terms certainly, the production will be seen as a significant event. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 




Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council