ASB Waterfront Theatre, 138 Halsey St, Wynyard Quarter, Auckland

18/08/2022 - 03/09/2022

Production Details

By Oscar Kightley
Directed by Troy Tu’ua and Tanya Muagututi’a
Musical Director: Posenai Mavaega

A co-production between Auckland Theatre Company and Pacific Underground

Legendary Pasifika theatre collective Pacific Underground revisits Dawn Raids 25 years on, in the wake of the Apology.

Central Auckland. 1973. Fuarosa sleeps with one eye on the front door, in fear of it bursting open. Sione struggles to keep the peace by day and croons Elvis love songs by night. Teresa turns to activism to channel her rage but only her mate Bene hears her. Steve is a policeman, turning his own people out of their homes – even though it turns his stomach. Mose supports the raids and scorns overstayers.

Join Sione and his band, the Noble Hawai’ian Sabretooth Tigers, as they welcome you to the Paradise Honeypot Club where everything is beautiful, until it isn’t.

Oscar Kightley’s contemporary classic contrasts white-hot anger at the injustice visited upon Pacific People with wit and warmth, and Elvis – lots of Elvis. An unmissable new production of Dawn Raids, given fresh potency by the Apology.

“A searing and raw look at a community under siege from its own government from a shameful time in Aotearoa’s history, only now being atoned for.” – Jonathan Bielski

ASB Waterfront Theatre 
18 August – 3 September 2022
Previews: 16 & 17 September
More details and bookings

Contains strong language  

By arrangement with Playmarket

Musical , Theatre ,

Insightful visual and aural feast laid out by brave, vulnerable, bold, empowered young actors

Review by Fiona Collins 20th Aug 2022

There is no excuse for not going to see this beautifully executed, funny, poignant, historically epic theatre work – brought to the ASB Waterfront Theatre by Pacific Underground and Auckland Theatre Company with the help funders CNZ, Auckland Council, and Playmarket NZ.

Back in 1997 Oscar Kightley wrote Dawn Raids which he and his Pacific Underground aiga (family) staged at the Herald Theatre. Set in the 1970s, the play is a hard-hitting work based on real people and real situations in an acute time of discrimination and unprovoked violent intrusions into the Ponsonby and Grey Lynn homes of many Samoan and Pacific people.

25 years later, Dawn Raids is revamped, revitalised and re-made to the absolute delight of last night’s opening night audience – where it takes the stage and breathes “PASIFIKA” into every corner of the building.

Kightley’s clever and wittily written words bounce off the walls of the theatre inciting raucous laughter one moment and heartrending tears from the audience as we are taken on a journey back to the reality of our parents/grandparent’s lives, back to the pain, back to the hardship, back to the reason why I am able to be sitting in a flash theatre in downtown Aukilagi, Niu Sila in 2022.

Brilliantly co-directed by the magnificent Tanya Muagututi’a (PU founding member), and fabulous Troy Tu’ua, the play nestles into the whole stage like it was written for this space. The insightful moments of what is seen and unseen; how the audience is gently but firmly held throughout the more disturbing reality of what happened in those early morning hours; the bold presentation of what has become intergenerational trauma that has inherently impacted on many Pasifika lives… This play NEEDS to travel.

Among many many things, Dawn Raids is aural FEAST for the senses. Musical Director, the legendary Posenai Mavaega, outdoes himself yet again with the perfect marriage between live music and text-based storytelling. It is such a heart treat to hear a Samoan fa’ili (band) on stage. They are phenomenal!

To hear Samoan party songs and hymns in an unfamiliar and mostly unlikely yet welcoming space, and know that a new generation is stepping through and bringing our Pasifika stories further into view … Malo lava Pos, King of the igi and champion of keeping Pasifika music alive for all the generations to come – faafetai tele lava.

The set design is next level! The G.O.M Arts Collective (Tony de Goldi and Mark McEntyre) have totally outdone themselves. They have brilliantly transformd the stage into the spaces needed for the storytelling with an ease and slickness that celebrates their experience and creativity. Also having designed the costumes (satisfyingly and suitably 70s!) and props (minimal and essential), this amazing team gives the directors and actors a wonderful playing space to play in. Two outstanding moments: the screens (ahhh the wonderful constant and varied use of the screens!), and the van (wow!).

It is not surprising that master Lighting Designer Jo Kilgour once again woos the audience and beautifully complements the play with her sublime and resourceful use of light. From torches to pinpoints to warm Pacific colours that flavour the scenes with a stealthy and unobtrusive presence – again, what is seen and unseen.

To be noted, acknowledged and celebrated is the history that all these Theatre masters and storytellers share. And that they have come together to ‘hand over’ to our next generation of Pasifika storytellers. So very special and definitely an historic moment in New Zealand theatre.

The cast – the brave, vulnerable, bold, empowered young actors who sing the songs, speak the words, cry the tears, and carry the pain of the generations before.

Bella Kalolo (To’aga) and Lauie Tofa (Mose) are exquisite. They are both exceptional in their outstanding portrayal of the stereotypical ‘fob’ Samoan parents, and it is heart-wrenching and real, with integrity and intelligence and pride. I weep, as do many others, at the reminder of what our parents went through, how they brought us up, and what their expectations were of/for us as they sacrifice everything for a better life for their children.

Kalolo shows a wealth of experience and stage craft with her sardonic Shakespearean asides and stillness, which nicely play against Tofa’s superb comedic timing, burly embodiment of his character and huge stage presence. Such great casting!

And this can be said for the whole cast.

Michael Falesiu (Sione) – eldest son of To’aga and Mose, factory worker by day and singer by night – opens the show as his performance alter ego ‘Fabian’, who dreams of stardom and wealth and escape from their humble Grey Lynn home.  Breaking the fourth wall (a norm in Pasifika storytelling), he welcomes the audience, as punters, to the Paradise Honeypot Club. He charms the audience with his Elvis-influenced dance moves and dulcet tones.

Falesiu’s depth as an actor truly comes in to play as Sione’s journey becomes steeped in reality and responsibility, and loss. He is a joy to watch and the perfect ‘Puck’ in this work.

Gabrielle Solomona is beautifully vulnerable yet fearless in her role as Fuarosa, the young Samoan fugitive who has stayed in New Zealand for love and the better life.

Talia-Rae Mavaega (Theresa) is outrageously improper and suitably outraged with the system and her life in general as a young NZ-born Samoan woman who has been brought up with education and choice. She leads, she rebels, she speaks up and against… and then ironically is her Father’s comfort in time of crisis. Talia-Rae plays this role with strength and aplomb.

Jake Tupu (Bene and Assistant Director) character Bene brings a softness and complexity to the story. He is burdened with a familial situation and is very ‘Samoan’.  Tupu’s skilful navigation of Bene’s journey is wonderfully done with charm and passion and vulnerability. A brave performance.

Italia Hunt humbly commands the stage as Steve, the Samoan policeman who is painfully conflicted and torn between his people, and ‘doing his job’. His scene with his Father back home in Samoa is heart-wrenchingly beautiful and Hunt plays this role with courage, depth and humanity.

The ensemble supports the space with calm, speed and slick scene changes which run like a well-choreographed dance as our eye is taken to other areas of the stage with lighting and sound cues. Well done to Stage Manager Petmal Petelo Lam and crew!

To the actors who play the Cops – malo lava, what an undertaking, what a responsibility, and even though it is ‘acting’, the impact of playing these roles will have been huge, so well done to you all.

The actual dawn raid scene is so raw, so heart-breaking – there’s not a dry eye in the house. And if it goes on a moment too long, is too uncomfortable, too painful for some people, then this brilliant cast and crew have done their job.


ABSOLUTE HIGHLIGHT: An audience member officially closing the show and formalities with a traditional Samoan end-of- function song.

This work MUST travel – all over Niu Sila, the world, but most importantly, Samoa 🤎🌺

Malo, malo lava.
Faafetai faafetai fa’afetai tele,
Ia outou manuia.


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