Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland

16/10/2015 - 24/10/2015

Radio NZ Drama Online, Global

03/04/2020 - 31/05/2020

COVID-19 Lockdown Festival 2020

Production Details


In the beating heart of the city, everybody is someone’s darling…  

A powerful and inspiring new theatre production by the freshest voice in New Zealand poetry will have its world premiere season at Mangere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku from 16 October.

Rising Voices’ Grace Taylor is a highly-regarded spoken word poet, teacher and youth development worker. Her debut theatre adaptation, My Own Darling, is a commentary of Auckland, told through the eyes of five characters.

In My Own Darling Taylor invites audiences to join her on an intimate journey through the social landscape of Auckland. It looks at the Auckland we don’t necessarily see or talk about.

Actress Mia Blake will make her first foray into directing with a cast that comprises Taylor (Akakasi Speaks, Skin), Fasitua Amosa (Lysistrata, the PollyHood series, Niu Sila) and Gabby Solomon. Anonymouz has built a electronic soundscape using recordings made in some of the places referenced in Taylor’s poetry.

The three actors play four characters between them: Teuila is a Samoan Palagi poet whose relationship has fallen apart and she faces the daunting task of becoming a single mum. Grit-Girl is a young woman who has been let down by most of the adults in her life. Man from the Maunga makes you smile and he’s pretty resourceful too – he makes a stereo for his motorbike from bits gathered at the inorganics in Remuera. The Lady-Next-Door is the Samoan aunty who gives the hard truths, just because she can.

“Taylor’s work focuses on identity and belonging – her powerful poetry provides a platform for the people and communities who are often overlooked,” says Blake.

“My Own Darling is a political social commentary that challenges preconceptions of poverty and stereotypes. Grace weaves verse into conversation thereby pushing the boundaries between spoken word and theatre.”

A creative force to be reckoned with, Taylor co-founded both the South Auckland Poets Collective and Rising Voices Youth Poetry Movement, she was the recipient of the 2014 Creative New Zealand Arts Pasifika Awards Emerging Pacific Artist award and is a passionate advocate for the rights of young people. She made her directorial debut last year with the moving and unflinching Skin for Auckland Theatre Company’s Youth Season.

Every season Auckland Theatre Company programmes a new New Zealand work that aims to shift boundaries and perceptions. This is that work for 2015.

The world premiere of
My Own Darling
Season Dates: 16 – 24 October 
Venue: Mangere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku from 16 October.

COVID 19 Lockdown Festival 2020

An Auckland Theatre Company production recorded live at Mangere Arts Centre, Mangere, Auckland, Monday 19 October 2015 

Grace Taylor
Fasitua Amosa 
Gabby Solomona 

Mia Blake: Director
Grace Taylor: Writer
Jessika Verryt: Set design
Anonymouz: Sound design
Laura Marsh: Costume design
Rachel Marlow: Lighting design  

Recording director for RNZ – Jason Te Kare 
Recording engineer – Darryl Stack  

Theatre , Audio (podcast) ,

46 mins

Extracts humour from adversity with the power of poetry

Review by Ruth Allison 03rd Apr 2020

This dramatised, acoustic performance works superbly. Characters, ideas and images come at impressive speed. Words are hurled, tossed into the melee of evolving Samoan characters grappling with love, poverty, motherhood, hardship, censorious passers-by, drugs, wealth, gaming, family: An abundance of conflicting cultural norms redolent of a fiercely traditional society. My Own Darling is not afraid to mete out the grim consequences of single-parenting, abandoned children, soulless love and displaced Samoan lifestyles.  In the words of one of her characters, this play “cuts through the bullshit every time”.

The power of words. Grace Taylor is a master. A rap on K Road – “a galaxy bruised with stars”, Starfish, an evocative metaphorical poem on love, dialogue that is so fast-paced and idiomatic that it sometimes gets lost on an initial listening but is always musical and unpredictable.

Grace Taylor’s drama is suffused with a positivity and a belief that the people in her play are all winners in the end. A character in an abusive relationship has learned to stand up for herself: “I am not your poem”. At the centre of it all, Auckland, “a city of undone darlings”; K-Road, the Waitakeres South Auckland, Ponsonby, the Bombay Hills. 

As an Afakasi, Taylor is well-placed to straddle both cultures and she does so with intelligent understanding and tolerance, embracing her various characters, showering them affection. There is grit-girl; the tough, single mum waiting with her son at the bus stop; the patron; the ingenuous convenor of the Pacifica poetry festival – and my favourite: the anonymous “If I’m loud enough I won’t hear my broken hearts anymore” Lady Next Door.

A sagacious sound track and a live recording with audible audience response, My Own Darling is a salute to the power of poetry, to the potential of the imagination and a tribute to a fine writer. The diverse characters are performed with an assurance of heritage. In its unique language and willingness to extract humour from adversity, Grace Taylor meets head-on the “concrete, street-faced toughness” of finding love in Aotearoa. She’s not afraid to use comedy and the outcome is a poignant, thought-provoking poetic performance.


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Poetic lens gives fresh perspective on Auckland City’s secret lives

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 19th Oct 2015

Performance poet Grace Taylor has created a boldly experimental fusion of theatre and verse that offers a fresh perspective on the sprawling contrasts of Auckland City.

Opening with an impassioned declaration of independence, the show takes us on a poetic journey into an unseen city that reveals its secrets through intensely personal stories, seasoned with down-to-earth humour and unexpected beauty.

An assortment of sharply drawn characters step out of the poems and are given a life of their own by the three-person cast. [More


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Arresting eloquence

Review by Nik Smythe 18th Oct 2015

Performance poet Grace Taylor presents her very personal experiences in and of Auckland with the consummate assistance of an exceptional crew.  The result is a remarkably polished, warm and moody expression of feelings and observations, directly linked to the region and the people who inhabit it, given crisp vocal resonance under Mia Blake’s precise direction. 

Grace is Teuila, a young poet writing/speaking journeying from South Auckland into the city’s centre on a kind of vision quest, observing what she encounters with her articulate gift for analogy and insight.  The roads are skeletons, the maunga vital organs; the people are like angels and demons, though the spiritual element of the work claims no particular denomination. 

Taylor’s supporting cast represents a small but eclectic bundle of characters, each with their own stories to tell and secrets to keep.  Gaby Solomona’s ‘Grit Girl’, a bitter and desperate solo mother from Papatoetoe suffers, like Teuila, the social displacement of an ‘afakasi’ (half-caste), her cultural purity supposedly compromised according to some. But her personal integrity, while challenged, remains staunch. 

Solomona’s second role as ‘the Patron’ couldn’t be more removed from Grit Girl in both manner and social status.  Emceeing her inaugural spoken word evening in Ponsonby, her naïve enthusiasm is laughable, but her openhearted willingness to provide a platform for Pasifika poets commendable.

Fasitua Amosa’s ‘Man from the Maunga’ is a wealth of intriguing and often surprising history about the geography and politics of the surrounding land visible from atop Maungawhau where Teuila meets him.  Whatever significance you care to place on the Man’s stories, he’s satisfied enough by his conclusion of choice: “Pretty out of it, eh!”

Again, the free-spirited travelling philosopher and Amosa’s other character, the ‘Lady Next Door’, are a world apart.  From her front porch she cheerfully engages with anyone willing, her broad Samoan vernacular seeming to make everything she says as amusing to her as her audience.  Yet, as is often the way with the loudest raconteurs, she confesses her laughter serves to mask the darkness and pain concealed within. 

There’s instant appeal in Jessika Verryt’s set. Predominately black, various raised surfaces imply a topographic scheme, with straight and curved white stripes evoking appropriately ambiguous images from road maps to netball courts, et cetera.  Rachel Marlow’s salient lighting illuminates the space and its inhabitants from all angles (including underneath) quite brilliantly, no pun intended. 

Urban music producer and rising legend Anonymouz’s immersive soundtrack interplays sublimely with the other artistic elements, co-existing in a kind of multi-media symbiosis that feels as natural as it does remarkably well-coordinated.  As high quality as these production values are, they are subordinate to accomplished writer-performer Taylor’s arrestingly eloquent words. 


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