The Forge at The Court Theatre, Christchurch

08/09/2017 - 16/09/2017


Production Details

Explore one young man’s journey to find the balance between traditional Samoan culture and modern life.  

Becoming Matai of the Aiga (family) is a great honour with even greater responsibility – but being a Matai is not an honour New Zealand-raised Lui wants.

The EMERGE: Works in Development programme features significant Christchurch works at different stages of development.

Here’s your chance to look behind the curtain and see the inner workings of how artists’ ideas move from the paper to the stage. You’ll also have the opportunity to provide feedback directly to the artists.

The Forge, Court Theatre
Fri 08 Sep – Sat 16 Sep 2017
Tue, Wed, Fri & Sat, 7:00pm
Mon, Thu, 6pm
$20 / Conc $15 | Groups 10+ $10
*Fees & conditions apply, see How to Book.


Theatre ,

1 hr

Eloquent exploration of cultural tensions

Review by Lindsay Clark 12th Sep 2017

Song, smiles and the matchless charm of a Samoan welcome in the first minutes of this production do not prepare us initially for the hard hitting truths it will explore. On second thoughts though, they do, because at the feeling heart of this heartfelt piece is a deeply held pride in Samoan culture and it is the indomitable strength of this cultural conviction which both shapes and colours the world we enter. 

Lui Manuia, successful young IT apprentice, comfortable in a palagi world, is back with the family he left abruptly when his mother died. It is his brother’s birthday and the family is set for celebrating that as well as the return of their estranged eldest. Father and matai Mikaele, sister Masina and aunt Malia, as well as the younger brother Jonah, embody the life he has left behind. Thus it is that painful differences of culture and custom unfold one after another.

Eating habits, dress, church-going and even his name provide the context for exploring Lui’s responses to traditional Samoan family life, but the ultimate challenge for him comes in his father’s expectations that Lui will also want to become a matai, a leader, upholding that long-held model of service and responsibility. Against that choice, Lui has to measure his new-won independence and the personal comfort that implies. 

The play is billed as an emerging work, but although it at times lacks the structural flow of a thoroughly resolved theme, the overall impact of ideas and performance is clear. Some scenes, such as the shared table for Jonah’s birthday meal, seem padded and transitions between scenes are a little rough. In contrast, the stylised scenes where characters simply line up and directly address the audience are very effective. So too is the music, with rich harmony seemingly spontaneous and unfailingly powerful, especially when accompanied by Silivelio Fasi’s choreography. As a metaphor for the strength of people united by family and cultural values, its eloquence is indisputable.

The commitment and talent of the cast and director, who speak briefly at the end of the evening, is also indisputable. Not a play, she insists, but real life has been presented.

All five cast members inhabit that reality convincingly and as Lui, conflicted third generation and potential matai, Peniamina Sofai does a fine job. The dignity and integrity of his father Mikaele is solidly conveyed by Matai’a Salatielu Tiatia and the redoubtable aunt personage, Malia, is given full treatment by Gaseilevao Faletolu-Toavia. Faith Saimoa Taula and Moresby Peseta as Lui’s sister and brother contribute strong performances to complete a cast well in control of broadly-written roles.

Because we are shown the traditional perspective on cultural tensions more forcefully than Lui’s counter claims, the play uncovers material all the more important for the majority audience. The key dictum “O le ala ile pule, o le tautua – the pathway to leadership is to serve”, should resonate with us all, and the stern advice to ‘ignite’ our passions but not burn our values in the process is universally sound. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council