Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

02/06/2015 - 06/06/2015

BATS Theatre, The Random Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

13/08/2019 - 17/08/2019

Production Details

Following on from their smash hit, GIRL ON A CORNER (Best Direction, Best Performance, Fringe Festival Awards 2015), award -winning writer Victor Rodger (Black Faggot) and Arts Laureate winners Vela Manusaute and Anapela Polataivao (The Factory) return to The Basement with the heart stopping new thriller CLUB PARADISO.

It’s 3am.  Closing time at Club Paradiso, a run down bar located on the outskirts of Flat Bush in Otara.  The bar staff are ready to go home after a long night … until notorious criminal Q bursts into the bar on the run from the cops and high on P. 

CLUB PARADISO marks the fifth collaboration for writer Victor Rodger and Robbie Magasiva after their successful outings with SONS, RANTERSTANTRUM, MY NAME IS GARY COOPER and AT THE WAKE.

CLUB PARADISO is the inaugural production by F.C.C., a new Pacific Island theatre movement which stands for FLOW, CREATE AND CONNECT. F.C.C.’S aims are to encourage the FLOW of truthful acting, to CREATE space for Polynesian stories and to CONNECT young Polynesian practitioners with industry veterans. 

STARRING:  Robbie Magasiva, Anapela Polataivao, Amanaki Prescott 

What the critics said about:  ‘GIRL ON A CORNER.’ 
“..the best work I have seen for years…” –
“…tantalizing…” – Metro
“A tipping point in the New Zealand theatre scene…” – Theatreview.
“…unique and interesting…” – Theatre Scenes
“…moving, magical…” – Lumiere Reader
“…excellent value…” – NZ Herald

WHERE:  The Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland. 
WHEN:  June 2-6 (8pm)
RATING: R18 – Contains strong language and sexual situations


“Club Paradiso was the very first FCC* production in 2015,” says Victor Rodger. “I wrote it for Robbie after I asked him what kind of role he hadn’t yet played and he said ‘Evil’. And when I gave him the script I said: ‘Careful what you wish for.’”

*FCC stands for the FLOW of energy; CREATING a platform for Pasefika practitioners; and CONNECTING young practitioners with veterans.

Trigger Warning: Contains sexual violence and coarse language

BATS Theatre: The Random Stage
13 – 17 August 2019
Full Price $25
Concession Price $20
Group 6+ $20

The Random Stage is fully wheelchair accessible; please contact the BATS Box Office by 4.30pm on the show day if you have accessibility requirements so that the appropriate arrangements can be made. Read more about accessibility at BATS.  


Robbie Magasiva:  Q
Anapela Polata'ivao:  TAHLZ
Amanaki Prescott-Faletau:  BUBBLES
Hans Masoe: AVE
Mario Faumui:  SASHA
Bella Robertson:  DANTE
Rocky Manusaute:  SI

Lighting: Jennifer Lal
Set Co-Ordinator: Sean Coyle

Theatre ,

1 hr

Shocking, surprising, insightful

Review by John Smythe 14th Aug 2019

It’s closing time at Club Paradiso. Ave wants to close up and get home, with his little sister – Dante, on her first shift – and their mother and boss, Tahlz. But fa’afafine Bubbles is waiting for her new palagi boyfriend to come and pick her up, so she and her best friend Sasha pass the time playing FMK with A-list sports stars, ‘in their dreams’. And soft-hearted Tahlz is happy to indulge them rather than make them wait on the street. It’s a fun game, and there’s always another song to sing …

Ave’s understandable impatience, convincingly played by Hans Masoe, is countered by Tahlz’s tip, benignly offered by Anapela Polata’ivao, that we all have choices about how to respond to whatever life throws at us. Meanwhile Bella Robertson’s quiet and obedient Dante keeps on clearing up while Amanaki Prescott-Faletau and Mario Faumui entertain themselves, and us, as Bubble and Sasha respectively.  

Then Q turns up, pumped on P: a clear and present danger. Mind your Ps and Qs people, nothing is predictable, anything is possible …

The tension, release, ebb and flow of Robbie Magasiva’s Q is mesmerising. He is charismatic control-freak incarnate. Sure he can be charming, gentle even; you might even want, at particular moments, to give him a hug. But any coiled spring seems harmless, until it’s not.

As for young Si, Q’s protégé – compellingly played by Rocky Manusaute – could his jumpy excitement and lack of control make him even more dangerous? What is this relationship exactly? Carnage has already occurred elsewhere … What are they up to – and why?

Answers to these questions gradually surface as the siege plays out in Victor Rodger’s shrewdly crafted drama, dynamically placed and paced by director Vela Manusaute. As dilemmas are confronted and acted upon, previously dormant dimensions of character are revealed or discovered, sometimes surprising themselves as well as us.

To further detail the many insightful and memorable moments would be a spoiler. Let me just note the question of gender identity and names, given and adopted, valued and vilified, continues a favourite theme of Rodger’s (cf. Sons; My Name is Gary Cooper; Black Faggot).

The simple set, co-ordinated by Sean Coyle, serves the action well and Jennifer Lal’s lighting design comes to the fore when Q becomes delusional and our objectivity becomes subjective.

Having steeled myself to witness action I’d never want to experience in real life (and isn’t that one of the joys of theatre?), I appreciate the way this production plays out the violence without employing special effects to convince us damage has really been done. We are free to suspend our disbelief without having to fear for the actors, so our attention is held on why it has happened, who had a choice in the matter, whether it could have been different and if so, how … To ask ourselves whether there is method in this madness or is it just meth: devoid of meaning or morals.

Sure, it is shocking. And Club Paradiso – ironically named – is full of surprises and insights as it confronts us with unavoidable realities, whether we like them or not.


Editor August 24th, 2019

Republished from Victor John Rodger’s Facebook page, with permission.

The season of Club Paradiso is over but this review found its way into my inbox this week. It's from Iuni Katalaina Polataivao Saute, the fourteen-year-old daughter of the director Vela Manusaute and our leading lady Anapela Polataivao and it is hands down the best review of Club Paradiso yet.

Even though I knew the play was way over my age limit, I still gave it a shot, took it out of my dad’s bag and I thought to myself “I’ve always wanted to read this, I’m sure it’s not as bad as they said it was.” The discussions that would open up about this particular play would always make me wonder what it was about, my parents refused to tell me about it and so did everyone else. It wasn’t until I saw the script poking out of my dad’s bag and from then on, I started. When I began reading the play, it felt as if someone was strangling me the entire time I was reading it, I could feel myself losing my breath the moment Q walked in. I couldn’t get up or look away while reading it, Q’s character was holding me by the neck, his character telling me “Keep watching”, the images were so clear and vivid. After finishing the reading, I felt that there was a hole in my stomach because the scenes cut so deep I felt it mentally and physically. I needed to cry, but I couldn’t. I began to understand as to why my mum would cry after her performances. Something that I felt was that you were there with them, with the way it was written. It felt like you were one with the characters, so up close, that you could “touch” their emotions. But you couldn’t. And that’s the art of the play, it’s so horrifying that it peels your skin but you’re still intact. During the 2nd reading of the play, I had to take several breaks since I found it mentally draining especially as I would be coming near the death scenes. As I would be reading it I could feel Q’s energy through the script and I didn’t know how to dispose of it. The energy was so heavy. But even so, I felt the love that was kneaded into the script, I felt it all. After all, Uncle Victor said something among the lines of the play being “born out of love” despite the horror that came along with it. You feel the motherly tenderness from Tahlz when she talks about Ave, and how far Ave is willing to protect his family. You can feel the bond between Sasha and Bubbles. The cruelty in Q’s character, the pain he went through. The innocence of Si and Dante. The writing, the play, the emotions in the words and the details tie it all together. The show is a masterpiece, and I’m sure Uncle Victor knows that himself. I enjoyed every moment reading it, such a thrilling piece with pure sadness embedded into it. It throws your emotions in the air and shoots them. Literally.

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It doesn’t get better – or scarier – than this

Review by Lexie Matheson ONZM 03rd Jun 2015

Yesterday, four incredible things happened. Sepp Blatter resigned as head of FIFA, Caitlyn Jenner came out for Annie Leibowitz on the cover of ‘Vanity Fair’, the Black Caps beat England at Headingley and Victor Rodger opened a new play at The Basement. 

While the first was surprising, the second astonishing, the third unexpected, it is the fourth that will stay in my memory the longest. In Club Paradiso Victor Rodger has turned a new page in the chronicle of theatre in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

That’s a big call, I hear you cry. Yes, it is, and I stand by it for a multitude of reasons.

Getting excited about going to the theatre is what I do – sometimes twice or three times a week – but there’s a special excitement when I hear about a new Victor Rodger work because I’ve learned that he’s an elusive bugger and just when I think I have a handle on what he’s up to, he blows me out of the water with what he does next. I thought he was talented when I saw Sons a million years ago but it was a one-off so I didn’t let myself get too excited. He might be a single-shot wonder, I thought, like so many before him.

Since then, of course, we’ve had My Name is Gary Cooper, At the Wake, the outstanding Black Faggot – which I hear he’s adapting for film – and most recently, my nomination for ‘Play of the Decade’, the outstanding Girl on a Corner from February this year.

Thanks to the particular genius of Letti Chadwick and her extraordinary, but under-rated, team at PIPA (Pacific Institute Performing Arts) there are now trained Pasifika actors well capable of realising the multi-textured characters Rodger creates and they have, collectively, created a model for indigenous theatre that is second to none in the world today.

Turn the lens slightly and we also have a unique Pacific take on the queering of Pacific theatre in the 21st century, and, for me, that’s mighty exciting too. All in all, my blood pumps harder and I feel more alive knowing that this work is happening, and continues to happen, and at a level of performance that is quite simply astonishingly good.

It’s not just actors and playwright, however, as Rodger is now regularly teaming with Arts Laureate Vela Manusaute, co-founder of KKK (Kila Koconut Krew), and co-director Anapela Politaivao (Girl on a Corner) under the banner of FCC (Flow, Create, Connect). This collaboration aims to produce “complex and challenging plays for Pacific talent” that will “connect emerging artists with seasoned veterans”.

Club Paradiso does that in spades, linking Robbie Magasiva as Q, Anapela Politaivao as Tahlz and Amanaki Prescott (Girl on a Corner) as Bubbles with a clutch of amazing youngsters who are, in one way or another, all from the PIPA stable. 

The first thing necessary after arriving at The Basement for this auspicious opening night was to settle our somewhat grumpy Mr Twelve on a couch in the foyer to do his homework while we went inside. Why was he grumpy? Those of you who read my reviews will know he goes to everything with my spouse and me but tonight he can’t because the ‘powers that be’ have determined Club Paradiso to be R18 and nothing attracts a tween more than an age restriction. To be serious though, he loved Black Faggot and Girl on a Corner and is, as all my family are, a fan of Pacific theatre and of Rodger’s work in particular.

Rodger is right though: this is not a work for the faint-hearted and the R18 rating is fully justified. The advertising says it’s because the play “contains strong language and sexual situations” and, while it’s absolutely correct about that, it doesn’t mention that there is also the most relentless graphic violence I’ve ever seen in a theatre; so real I fully expected to read about it in the NZ Herald the next morning. I don’t, but what makes it doubly effective as a piece of performance art is the fact that I have read about events of this nature happening in Aotearoa New Zealand: events that absolutely turn the stomach. 

The marketing says it better than I ever could and here it is: “It’s closing time at ‘Club Paradiso’, a run-down bar on the outskirts of Flat Bush in Otara. Everyone’s ready to go home after a long night at the club … until notorious criminal Q and his sidekick burst into the bar, covered in blood, high on P and running from the cops. At ‘Club Paradiso’ all hell’s about to break loose.” 

And it does, but that’s all you’ll get of the plot in this review as any ‘spoiler’ would, well … it would totally spoil the mandatory jolts and the physical revulsion that you’ll experience as you join Q and Si on this predetermined journey to self-destruction. Q tells us he’s “going out with a bang” and he plans to take as many souls with him as he possibly can. 

You’ll love it. You probably won’t like it, though, because it’s a glimpse into the misery inflicted on people, and on society, by the sons, brothers, fathers and uncles of others; those we try to shut out, to deny, to pretend don’t exist and who, from time to time, simply say “fuck this” and run amok. “You trying to be the man?” Q asks. The answer is simple: he’s the man. 

Rodger says “it’s tough, uncompromising and sometimes brutal – and it’s breaking new ground in Pacific theatre.” He’s right about that. His tough, beautifully crafted script explodes with dark beauty and provides an extraordinarily real platform for some equally courageous performances.

“It’s everyone’s worst nightmare,” Rodger says, and I’m ever so glad my son is in the foyer with a bottle of Coke doing his Year 8 literacy work while I’m in the theatre. There are moments when I almost wish I was with him but, like most humans, I can’t drag myself away from the carnage and I, at times unwillingly, stay and struggle with the unyielding and relentless nature of this inhumanity.

“Intense is the best word I can use to describe it,” Rodger says, and I can only nod wordlessly in agreement. It’s powerful stuff, and we quickly forget we’re watching actors with scripts, a plotted narrative, costumes, and all the detritus of an extremely sophisticated performance piece. It’s life, Jim, but exactly as we know it, exactly, and I sense there are long periods where nobody in the auditorium dares to breathe at all. 

It’s a tacky club in Flat Bush, Otara, is ‘Club Paradiso’. There are plastic seats, a few chromed barstools, a small service area, a hand-painted sign edged with hypnotically tracking fairy-lights that says ‘Club Paradiso’ with the final ‘O’ a chocolate coloured cocoanut, and there’s a good-sized circular riser centre stage for the singing of karaoke. It’s a serviceable set, accurate, but more important it’s closing time for Tahlz (an empathic Anapela Polataivao) and her sons Ave (a subtle Hans Masoe) and camp Dante (recent PIPA graduate Gabriel Halatoa). All these performances are finely tuned and resourcefully delivered. 

The bar is cooking and the prime culprits are the gaudy Sasha (an exquisite Sandy Vukalokalo) and the aptly named Bubbles (Amanaki Prescott). Prescott, a favourite of mine in both PIPA’s Teen Faggots Come to Life and as the headliner in Rodger’s hit from earlier this year Girl on a Corner has, in Bubbles, created a quite different character for this production: softer, less edgy and it works a treat against Vukalokalo’s brazen shamelessness and Q’s hostility. It’s always fulfilling to see fa’afafine characters portrayed with maximum authenticity, and by actors of the quality of Prescott and Vukalokalo.

It’s also deeply satisfying to see a playwright of Rodger’s stature writing mature and richly textured roles for these extraordinary actors, something that seems a long way from any current reality with palagi playwrights (with the possible exception of Robert Gilbert who is workshopping his finely crafted Trans Tasmin in just a few days at the Court Theatre in Christchurch).

Sidekick to Q, the intellectually limited Si – a powerful performance by Levon Rawiri in his first professional production – leaves zero to the imagination. His is commitment personified and he pushes the play forward with an intensity that is totally appropriate but almost impossible to watch – and in this case that’s a good thing. Throughout he’s Q’s bitch and, while his attempts at intimidation are woefully impotent, the ever present firearm and his otherwise ‘loose-unit’ behaviour create an ongoing threat that disguises his ultimate vulnerability behind a mask of drugged-out swagger and bravado. 

Robbie Magasiva is Q. If there is a better actor in Aotearoa than Magasiva I’ve yet to see him. There are moments – dancing slowly on the riser (see the production, you’ll know what I mean) – where his likeness to Robert Downey Jr is uncanny and it’s this star quality that ultimately makes this crazed butcher unbearably likeable. It’s great conceptual playwrighting – and spectacularly astute acting – and it’s in every pore of this excellent production.

Rodger says, “The main inspiration for Club Paradiso came from Robbie” – no surprise – “who has acted in four of my plays before, saying that he wanted to play a bastard since he’s never played that kind of role.” Well, he has now, and he is frightening good, so good, in fact, that he makes Rodger’s gritty and audacious text seem like everyday speech, it’s embedded so deeply in the actor’s psyche. Naturalism is one thing but this is something else altogether.

Opening night or not, Magasiva is in total command of the stage, the language, the other characters and the entire world of the play, so much so that the boundaries between what is real and what is staged become inexorably blurred and we sit, deeply uncomfortable, in that no-mans-land. It’s a stunning realisation of a role that makes Jake the Muss look like Jake the Puss.  

So you think that’s another big call? For sure, and as always, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and, should you resolve to partake of this actor’s feast, I have little doubt that you will agree. Remember, though, what Rodger himself has said: “It’s dark and some people can’t handle the dark.” You will, of course – it’s just a play after all – but it will wring your withers and crunch your hackles exactly as really excellent theatre always should.

Rodger goes on to say that he believes “this is ground-breaking theatre – especially in terms of Pacific theatre – gripping and intense, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in New Zealand before.” Again, I agree with him totally.

This may well be New Zealand theatre’s dream team: sublimely good acting with Magasiva superb as the damaged psychopath and the rest of the cast stunning too; with taut, dynamic direction from Manusaute and Politaivao and everything in the safe, eloquent hands of Victor Rodger, quite simply the finest playwright working in Aotearoa New Zealand right now. 

It doesn’t get better – or scarier – than this.


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