Frangipani Perfume

Centrepoint, Palmerston North

24/06/2023 - 13/07/2023

Production Details

Written by Makerita Urale
Director : Sarai Perenise-Ropeti
Choreography: Siana Vagana, Jthan Morgan and Seluvaia Iloahefaiva

Centrepoint Theatre

In this classic Pasifika comedy three Samoan sisters are stuck in thankless cleaning jobs, dreaming of better lives and the world they left behind, all with the usual banter and ribbing that sisters have. Named one of the top-ten New Zealand plays of the 2000s by The Listener, Frangipani Perfume tenderly and hilariously captures the struggles and dreams of those who are stuck between where they are and where they want to be.

Location: Centrepoint Theatre

Dates: 24th June – 13th July
Wednesday • 6.30PM
Thursday • 7.30PM
Friday • 7.30PM
Saturday • 7.30PM
Sunday • 4PM

Tickets at:
Ticket Prices:
Adult • $50; Early Bird $45
Concession* • $41; Early Bird $39
Tertiary Student • $29
Secondary Student • $27
Dinner + Show • $95

Naiki: Jthan Morgan
Pomu: Seluvaia Iloahefaiva
Tivi: Siana Vagana

Director  Sarai Perenise-Ropeti
Production Manager  Marshall Rankin
Lighting Designer Izzi Lao
Set Construction  Harvey Taylor
Set Designer  Christopher Ulutupu
Stage Manager/Technical Operator Belle Harrison
Production Assistant Zahnia Gerraid
Choreography Siana Vagana, Jthan Morgan and Seluvaia Iloahefaiva
Costume Designer Aimee Cooki Martin
General Manager/Artistic Director  Kate Louise Elliott
Business Manager  Martin Carr
Associate Director  Alex Wilson
Marketing Manager  Jacob McDonald

Theatre ,

70 minutes

A cleverly crafted, multi-layered play with breathtaking and exhilarating performances

Review by Tania Kopytko 25th Jun 2023

Frangipani Perfume is such a pertinent play for Palmerston North, with the city and region having a strong tradition in settling and employing refugees and migrants. Playwright and filmmaker Makerita Urale wrote Frangipani Perfume in 1998 and in doing so pioneered the presentation of Pacific women’s stories in New Zealand. Since then, it has been presented successfully across New Zealand and internationally and named by the Listener as one of the top ten New Zealand plays of the 2000s. It is a beautifully written play which has matured well.

Frangipani Perfume is a universal play. Touching the lives of all migrants, the play explores everything from the lightness and humour of a family, peculiarities and familiarities of a culture, through to the dark depths of despair, anger and dislocation that migrants experience in their new world, where they live in an often-marginalised state, socially, culturally and economically.

But this is also solidly a Samoan play and so the dislocation plays out within a Samoan context, where traditional values conflict with the modern differing world views. These conflicts can rip at the heart of traditional family values and family unity. Adding to these layers is that here the mother has died and the father is ill, placing more pressure on the family members. It is a crucible for celebration and pain.

A deeply moving play, Frangipani Perfume cleverly uses a variety of humour, comedy and dance to balance the darker sides. This is exemplified in the opening joyous percussive sasa, where a joyous shriek can be a sneeze and the arm patterns soon become those of a cleaner, cleaning the floor. Later the joy of some slick disco moves at a local dance set the context for a soon to be disappointed romantic match.

The beauty and delicacy of a remembered, loved, perfect and distant Samoan culture is seen through Siva Samoa. The clever choreography is integral to the storytelling. Dance and song is integral and healing to the expression of the migrant in their alien environment.

The play highlights the plight of Pacific Island migrants caught between a culture of the islands, remembered as pristine beauty, a precious and delicate perfume which heals and balms all, and the reality of the dislocation, where the three women, sisters and cleaners, literally clean up everyone’s shit. Light is made of this through comedy, but the dark tragedy of underlying dislocation expressed through anger and violence, is able to be ignited by any incident. So, the play explores these steaming fissures and provides enormous shifts in mood, tension and human experience.

The actors – Seluvaia Iloahefaiva, Jthan Morgan, and Siana Vagana – rip into the rich text and give their all as the three sisters: Pomu, Tivi and Naiki. They exhaust themselves as tension rises and explodes, but take the measured time to recover, creating a tension where the silent audience waits with bated breath, to hear the resolution. Congratulations on the breathtaking and exhilarating performances, and on the directing of the work by Sarai Perenise-Ropeti.  

The set, designed by Christopher Ulutupu is simple, adorned with garlands and a white floor, that must be kept clean. The lighting (Izzi Lao) and costumes (Aimee Cooki Martin) complement and support the work. 

Frangipani Perfume is a cleverly crafted, multi-layered play that allows the audience to understand it on many different levels, perhaps according to their experiences of life. It is certainly an opportunity to learn about the lives of many migrants – who currently, vitally, clean our work places, care for our sick and elderly, drive our buses and work in our fields.

Don’t miss this rare opportunity to understand more about our own society in Aotearoa and see a brilliant play. Frangipani Perfume is on at Centrepoint until 13 July.


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