I LOVE YOU G

Te Pou Tokomanawa Theatre, Corban Art Estate Centre, 2 Mount Lebanon Ln, Henderson, Auckland

01/05/2024 - 11/05/2024

Production Details


Devising Cast: Dominic Ona-Ariki. Beaulah Koale, Neil Amituanai
Co-directors: Scotty Cotter and Sam Scott MNZM

Massive Theatre Company


Long-time Massive company members Dominic Ona-Ariki, Neil Amituanai and Beulah Koale met while creating and performing with Massive over 15 years ago. They have been best mates ever since.
But what happens when their friendship fractures and they need to work out how to put it back together? When ignoring it stops working, Neil, Beulah and Dom have to work out how to fix their friendship or walk away.

Gaming online together and having drinks at the pub isn’t the same as turning up for each other. They have to excavate what being brothers really means.

This won’t look or sound like your usual theatre show. Three of New Zealand’s best actors bring their real lives to the stage, returning to Massive Theatre Company where they first met as teenagers, to explore the va of their friendship.

Full of trademark cheek, grit and a whole lot of heart, I LOVE YOU G is a gutsy and at times uncomfortable love letter to brotherhood – a joyous invitation to “soften the fuck up.”

Te Pou Theatre, Henderson, Auckland
1-11 May 2024

1 – 4 May and 7 – 11 May7:30pm shows
Thu 2 May 7:30pm Choose What You Pay night (with post show forum)
Wed 7 May 7:30pm NZSL interpreted performance (with post show forum)
Thu 8 May 7:30pm Audio Described performance (with post show forum)

Massive show page: https://www.massivecompany.co.nz/current-theatre-productions/love-you-g

Te Pou booking link: https://nz.patronbase.com/_TePou/Productions/ILYG/Performances


Cast
Dominic Ona-Ariki (The Brave, One Lane Bridge, Shortland Street)
Beaulah Koale (The Brave, Hawaii Five-O, Next Goal Wins)
Neil Amituanai (The Brave, Three Wise Cousins)

Co-directors: Scotty Cotter (The Brave, Mauri Tau, Shortland Street) and Sam Scott MNZM (Massive AD)

Lighting Design: Jane Hakaraia
Set and Costume design: Lauren Millar
Sound Design: Harmony Hogarth
Stage Manager: Chiara Niccolini
Operator: Pete Davison
Producer: Carrie Rae Cunningham
Proudly Asian Theatre Producer Intern: Sam Geri
Marketing and outreach: Kate Rylatt, Tane Te Pakeke-Patterson, Taran Paris
Photos by Andi Crown Photography


Theatre ,


70 minutes

A heartfelt testament to the enduring power of human connection

Review by Genevieve McClean 02nd May 2024

In the intimate setting of Pou Theatre, I Love You G unfolds with a captivating blend of vulnerability, humour and athleticism. The production’s strength lies not only in its complex visual narrative but also in its daring approach to audience engagement. 

From the outset, the actors establish a profound connection with the audience through unyielding eye contact. This deliberate choice creates a sense of intimacy that is both arresting and discomforting, challenging viewers to confront the raw honesty of the characters’ emotions. It’s a bold tactic that pays off, drawing audiences deeper into the narrative’s exploration of love, friendship, and self-discovery.

The play’s central theme revolves around the complexities of male relationships, but its resonance extends far beyond gender lines. It delves into the universal human need for connection and understanding, emphasising the importance of communication and vulnerability in fostering meaningful bonds. Through the characters’ struggles and triumphs, I Love you G reminds us of the inherent value of love and companionship in our lives.

Being myself, I opportunistically invited a young relation of mine, to get his perspective on the play. However, I quickly realised that it was essentially a story about heart and – shall I point this out? – we all have hearts.  This is a show about getting your cold heart warmed up and it has relevance for all of us.

It’s a joyful creation, and while it’s tempting to extrapolate on the relationships and banter between the three men, I feel it sits most strongly as a visual and visceral experience of physical storytelling deftly interwoven into physical theatre with elements of dance, and there’s plenty of grist for you to chat about the human interplay with your companions after the show.

Nonetheless, my 15 year old counterpart offered up some wry observations that I include here:

“I thought it was a good play and very skilfully done, and the dancing was really good. Also that the themes were very strong and that it definitely carried its moral message by the end which was that you shouldn’t let go of the people that are important to you but put the effort into your friends. It’s definitely a comedy, though it didn’t really make me laugh like a belly-laugh but it was very enjoyable to watch. But the guy sitting next to me was laughing hard. The set design with the pictures of the actors when they were young made you feel that New Zealand is a very specific place, and it’s different from other places in the world and that any child in any school in New Zealand would be able to know what that story of being young is like.” – Nixon Kayes (15).

While the comedy may not elicit uproarious laughter from everyone, I can attest to the fact that the crowd is responsive and highly entertained, and this is a show that suits a jubilant response. I notice at least one person crying, but I am not certain which of the many emotions possibly aroused by the play caused that. The show is light but not shallow, highly intricate but never allowing the vibe to drop; there’s no wallowing in this show yet it deals with some hard thematic conversations. And the play is a self-reflexive bio-pic which must have been confronting in the journey as a maker.

The motif of the held gaze, I find a really interesting ploy.  I actually have to look away to break the gaze sometimes, resting my eyes on a different actor before going back, but the intensity of that direct gaze with the actor/characters is confronting as if I am being drawn in hypnotically to the personal lives of these three men. This direct gaze forces the audience to come even closer to the essential difficulty of the characters in a self-reflexive way.

If it’s hard now, in a crowd with professional actors, then just how much harder is it for young men in New Zealand to be able to overcome those hurtful shy and excruciating shameful feelings of loss and need, and to be able to look a friend in the eye and tell him that you love him? “Just checking in” – a line that is indicative of the return to the light touch present in the play.

The melded dance forms uphold, through physicality, a reminder that this is storytelling. Bring to it what you will. Get out what you put in. I have a feeling there is also a layer of contextual and culture-specific nuance infused within the visual storytelling that is indicative of those deeper resonances. Maybe just Palagi FOMO, though it certainly doesn’t detract from the show.

Beautiful stuff from Neil Amituanai, Beulah Koale & Dominic Ona-Ariki.  Neil’s thoughtful determination, Beulah’s frontline defence and Dominic’s enigmatic harmonizing make these practitioners a captivating triad. Kudos to the co-directors, Sam Scott and Scotty Cotter. Although I don’t know their practice closely, I suspect they have provided the outside eye, and the devising ensemble has nudged out every bit of story into the stuff this show is woven from.

My cousin and I agree that it is very relatable to young people, and that the physical athleticism displayed by the actors adds another layer of excitement, enhancing the visual appeal of the production. From spirited dance sequences to poignant moments of reflection, every aspect of the performance is executed with precision and grace. We spent the drive home reflecting on our families and friendships.

Ultimately, I Love You G is a testament to the enduring power of human connection. Through its heartfelt storytelling, impeccable performances, and thought-provoking themes, it leaves a lasting impression that resonates long after the final curtain falls. It’s a theatrical experience that celebrates the beauty of friendship, the strength of love and the courage to embrace our true selves. 

Comments

Make a comment

High energy, emotive, honest, sharp, clear, concise, fast-paced, physical, spartan and full of love

Review by Tainui Tukiwaho 02nd May 2024

I am reviewing this show with four of my children: Le-Toya is a 17-year-old wahine, Paku 17-year-old Tane and my two younger boys, Jade 13 and Popai 11. Tonight we went as a family to watch I Love You G and it was one of my better parenting decisions to date.

Before I talk about the show, I thought I’d give a little background about myself that I think is pertinent to my response to the show. I am a father of seven, the ages of the young people for whom I am responsible (in varying degrees) ranges from 20 years to 20 months. Five of those children are male and that matters in this instance because watching these three young men performing tonight gave me hope for our young men.

First disclaimer guys, this show was performed at Te Pou Theatre and I have what you might call a strong connection to the venue (even that may have been an understatement) but I am writing this review from my own perspective as a theatre artist with my children, not as a representative of the whare.

My children and I have watched a lot of theatre shows and I have managed to create a sweet balance with these four children where two of them love the craft so much they both have a desire to work in the industry themselves. In fact the two theatre lovers have already begun to carve a career for themselves. Whereas the other two couldn’t think of anything worse than be thrust in front of others and be stared at for any period of time. So I thought this would make for a very polarised and contrasting review when I invited them to give their opinions on the show. 

Te Pou Theatre is a cavernous space and is hard to fill and negotiate. The whare has been functioning for a little under a year and four months and in that time many shows have been through the whare, imbuing it with their mauri and experimenting with the best way to use the old storage shed. So when these three men softly fill the space, first with their voices in the darkness, I am intrigued.

The three men are revealed to us gently, a whispered song accompanied by soft side light. This is the beginning of a heartfelt story of truthful reveal that Massive Theatre Company is famous for and a skill that Director Sam Scott has perfected over her years as a theatre maker. Her generous practice as an arts leader means she has seen the growth of many of our industries great theatre makers, Sam’s co director Scotty Cotter included.

It is impressive to watch a work so obviously guided and shaped by an outside eye, yet the voice of the directors does not overshadow the work. This is an example of truly skilled professionals executing their work with surgical precision.

Long-time Massive company members Dominic Ona-Ariki, Neil Amituanai and Beulah Koale have been friends for 15 years, since they met each other doing workshops for this, the same company that has brought their story to life.

They first worked professionally together performing a show called The Brave, which I also enjoyed. But I feel the bravery shown in this show is far more impressive. No spoiler alerts here. I’ll give you the basics of what happens but you will need to go see the show to experience the story.

Imagine, as young men, identifying the exact moment you broke your closest friendships, identifying all moments following that, and then being asked to stand up on stage and tell everyone watching how much of an a**hole you were to someone that you love. That is this show in a nut shell, and this show of compassion and love is why I have hope for my boys in this world.

All three of these men have a charisma that is exciting to watch. The show is high energy, emotive, honest, sharp, clear, concise, fast-paced, physical, spartan and full of love. These adjectives are synonymous with a Massive show. One of the problems with demanding such high standards of your own work and your players is that your audience comes to expect exactly the same thing, so when your productions don’t reach those unreasonably high standards no quarter is given.

Quarter in this instance is not necessary Dom, B and Neil do the Massive whakapapa proud. It would be a mistake to try and find a stand out performance, it is clear that any success they have in this show they share and you have the sense that they would carry any failings together as well. 

If I were looking to pick holes in the work, I could say that the work is very similar in its execution, style and storytelling, to previous shows but I do not even know if this is a bad thing. It may just reenforce their connection as friends. Also, some of their movements through space seem unmotivated. (I found these critiques after a long night of consideration and the desire to give a balanced review).

The set design is basic, but not to a fault. The black flats arranged around the stage are broken up with gold thread running through them, giving the impression of Kintsugi (a Japanese practice of repairing a broken object with gold lacquer giving the original object more beauty through the act of reforming.) I cannot help but think that this is a very clever yet simple way to express the complexities of the show we are watching.

It is easy to feel the tone of the piece with moody side light mixed with some cool haze; fun theatre magic. I am always a fan of that.

I believe that, when it comes to the sound and AV in a show, most audiences do not hear the nuances in the mahi, they only really notice when something goes wrong and if you get it right, people just accept it and think nothing more of it. The Dragon Ball Z, video game sound track that takes us into a world of play takes me right back to the days before seven children when I got to run around and be an egg like that and I loved it.

I Love You G is a loud energetic piece of theatre, lead and devised by three proud and beautiful Polynesian men.

If you were an 11-year-old boy you might say that it was good, very relatable and would watch it with a pringles tin on your arm that you would use as a canon, as the cast do as they run around pretending they are in a video game.

If you are a 13-year-old boy who doesn’t like theatre, you would laugh out loud during the show, bounce in your seat when exciting things are happening, clearly enjoying it and then shrug and say it was alright, when your Da asks what you think.

If you are a 17-year-old wahine, you might say the jokes at the start aren’t really for you and that it’s all a little slow, but once you got in to it, it was really cool and you might enjoy it even more when you find out it is based on a true story. You may also have found it relatable, making you think about times when you had that dynamic in a friend group and you might regret teasing that person when you did and remembering how hard it was for you to apologise and wanting to bring it up, but not knowing how.

If you are a 17-year-old Māori boy at acting school you might be excited at the strong Polynesian representation on the stage, you might be buzzing at the unapologetic representation of our people. You might get home and when the other kids have gone to bed, you might want to stay up and keep talking to your dad about the show, not able to keep still. Moving around with an energy learnt from watching something that touches your wairua, but not quite sure how to express it yet. 

And if you are a jaded 42-year-old man who has been working in the arts for a while as well as raising a large family, you may watch the show and wonder what your friends are doing, who you spent intense times with but are not with you any longer. You may reflect on, and miss those types of male friendships that shape us as we grow from boys to men.

And if you are smart you will buy a ticket and support these young men as they share their story with us all. 

Comments

Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council