Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

16/04/2013 - 25/04/2013

Production Details

Unsung stories of WWII Pasifika soldiers honoured this ANZAC Day.  

When you’re in the army of a country that’s not your own, about to fight a war half a world away, who do you fight for – God, king and country? or your fellow brothers-in-arms? 

Hekama Creative, in association with Chocolate Stigmata, is proud to present the world premiere of Goodbye My Feleni, an uplifting and moving new play by Samoan playwright DF Mamea. 

Goodbye My Feleni pays tribute to the Pasifika soldiers who served with the 28th (Maori) Battalion in World War II. Using Pasifika humour and song to tell the tale of brotherhood forged in the fire of battle, Goodbye My Feleni explores the sacrifices a Pasifika man must make in order to fight for God, king and country – even when it’s not his own. 

Goodbye My Feleni runs from 16 – 25 April, to celebrate ANZAC Day.

Starring Taofia Pelesasa (A Frigate Birds Sings, The Factory ), Andy Sani (The Brave), Leki Jackson Bourke (The Brave, Taro King) and Samson Chan-Boon (At the Wake). Directed by Amelia Reid-Meredith (Shortland Street) and Shadon Meredith  (Hypothesis One:Le Tonu ).

Goodbye My Feleni is made with the support of Auckland Council Arts Alive and The Basement.

Goodbye My Feleni 
16-25 April 8pm 
Basement Theatre – Main stage  
$20/$25 booking fees apply.  

Potentially groundbreaking play

Review by Tamati Patuwai 20th Apr 2013

Ka tika me mihi ki nga tini Toa wairua i hinga totara mai i nga pakanga o te Ao. Aue taku tangi e!

“Fuluhi ki tua ke kitia mitaki a mua”
Turn backwards so that you may see forward well.

The idea surrounding this Niuean proverb is something that we commonly hear from Maori of Aotearoa: that within the context of moving to the future we are actually moving into the past at the same time. It reasserts the real connections and whakapapa that Maori of Aotearoa and our Pacific cousins have.  

The same can be said of David Mamea’s playwriting debut, Goodbye My Feleni.

In Aotearoa, when we mention the Maori Battalion, an honouring spirit and celebration fills the air. It is an incredible feat for an obviously determined first time playwright to position himself smack bang in the middle of one of this countries most esteemed and illustrious features. 

Just for that alone I salute David Mamea and Jenni Heka, the play’s producer, for having the vision to express a very interesting and vital part of our collective history. 

Set in 1942, Goodbye My Feleni presents four characters, all of Pacific island lineage who have joined the ranks of the D (Ngati Walkabout) Company of the Maori Battalion. They are preparing for their deployment with training, booze and the typical posturing that comes naturally with Pacific relationships. 

Generally the play gives a generous display of solidarity held within the context of soldiers, Pacific Island, Maori and Pakeha alike, in warfare. However the ideas within many scenes seem to lack substantial footing. This statement has two aspects to it.

When we mention ancestors we must talk about the spirit. I understand this may be extremely subjective, however in this situation it is still an appropriate lens. Stated earlier, ‘the air’ of spirit and honour comes when we speak to the warriors of old. In Goodbye My Feleni, this ‘spirit’ wanes and barely reaches the surface. Eugenio Barba often alludes to this necessary theatrical feature and calls the phenomenon “a million candles”. It’s the kind of the quintessential cherry on top of an actor’s presence, a scene’s ambience or play’s wholeness. 

The second element is with the expositional backing. The text seems to lack enough grounding of ideas and background to fully function for the audience (possibly even the actors).  

All of the actors work very hard to pull relational depth and emotional feeling into the air. Pacing of text, clipped English and even the treatment of song feel like devices to elevate the ambience of meaning in Feleni. My proposition is that with a good script these tricks are not necessary. 

The co-directors, Shadon Meredith and Amelia Reid-Meredith, also have obvious skills. There are some nice directorial moments, one of which is when Bishop remembers his brother. Many, not all, of the missing scriptural elements could have been amended by a more experienced directorship or a supporting network.

Briefly on the performances, the boys are doing a good job. As an offering: in our Pacific world our familial relationships are always complex. However the status and hierarchies are never ambiguous. If the actors were to work to hone and deepen the status of each character in relation to the others this would make a lot more sense of the play as a whole.

The set and costume designs are very respectfully done. It seems, given the implicative directing style, that there could possibly have been more stripping back, with mime and minimal set pieces. 

The Basement Theatre itself as a venue always has its ‘basement’ charms. Having to duck to miss the pipes in the roof, and the creaking rostra, all add to the atmosphere of any play’s debut season. I do wonder, after this season and with some work, how this potentially ground breaking play will do at Mangere or just out where Pacific people live. I sincerely look forward to that.

Goodbye My Feleni comes at an important time in our nation’s journey where Aotearoa is deepening its Pacific roots. Another Niuean proverb, “Fuhi ulu auloa,” speaks to the care of binding all of the strands together. In this context, the esoteric nature of our story, the structural elements and fundamental intent are all part of this.

Keep going Feleni! Your ancestors have been waiting for you! Keep going


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Thought-provoking prelude to Anzac Day

Review by Frances Morton 19th Apr 2013

The heroics of the Maori Battalion are cemented in our nation’s historical lore. What’s lesser known, is that within the D Company ranks – Ngati Walkabout as it was known – soldiers from the Pacific Islands marched alongside their Maori brothers in arms. Goodbye My Feleni takes up their tale. We meet Cook Islander Lance Corporal Simi Bishop (Samson Chan-Boon) and his two young subordinates Niuean Tama Apala (Leki Jackson Bourke) and Samoan Ione Churchward (Andy Sani) at Papakura Military Camp in 1942, just as they are about to ship off to “travel the world and kill Nazis”, as Apala says. 

The new recruits are as squirmy as schoolboys at a sleepover party. Bishop beats time until reveille gambling at illicit card games in neighbouring barracks. Stuck in a merry limbo the excited soldiers face their future naively. Reality starts to sink in with the arrival of 2nd Lieutenant Eteli Masani (Taofia Pelesasa), a staunch, battle-weary veteran carrying secrets from the front. [More


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Play pays tribute to Mari Battalion’s little-known Pacific soldiers

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 18th Apr 2013

The Maori Battalion has earned a place of veneration within New Zealand’s collective memory but it is not well known that Pacific Islanders also contributed to this legendary fighting force.

When playwright DF Mamea chanced upon a CD of Maori Battalion songs he was surprised to find the disc contained a couple of Samoan songs. His play attempts to bring this forgotten history life and he approaches the task with a lively sense of humour.

A series of impressionistic vignettes neatly captures the rough and tumble of barracks life as three young Pacific Island recruits await deployment and amuse themselves by telling stories, reading letters and most importantly singing songs. [More]  


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Come back soon

Review by Matt Baker 18th Apr 2013

“In a day and age where we idolise ‘glamour and swag’ – we often forget the people who died getting us here, these should be our idols and heroes. It’s been an honour breathing life into this part of our Pacific heritage with the boys and the crew in acknowledging the role which our smaller Pacific counterparts (Niue and Cook Island) played in our identity in Aotearoa. Lest we forget.” Truer words could not be written in regards to the need for Pacific culture to be portrayed on stage. War is a universal concept, and, when the archetypal themes are enveloped in our history, the chance for New Zealand’s colourful cultural mix can be given great opportunity to shine. 

David Fa’auliuli Mamea’s script has a very swift narrative, in that there is lack of escalation in the series of events, resulting in the revelation coming about in a rather abrupt dramatic turn. This means that both Taofia Pelesasa and Samson Chan-Boon have little to play against as the play progresses. Consequently, we, as an audience, do not get to see the cracks in their armour, and any chance of tension developing through dramatic irony is lost. There are moments of it, however, they are too fast and few. [More]  


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