The Court Theatre, Bernard Street, Addington, Christchurch

06/06/2015 - 04/07/2015

Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

30/04/2016 - 21/05/2016

Production Details

An hilarious look at an unlikely friendship 

Following sold out seasons in Auckland and Wellington comes an hilarious and touching story from two of New Zealand’s top comedy writers, Oscar Kightley (Sione’s Wedding, Bro’Town) and Dave Armstrong (Le Sud, The Motor Camp), about a friendship that spans 40 years, two cultures and one street. 

In 1970s suburban New Zealand, six-year-old Ioane Tafioka, fresh off the boat from the islands, moves in next door to Peter Burton. Instantly becoming best friends, they spend every day together. As the boys become teenagers they succumb to their stereotypical paths, drifting apart, until a chance reunion twenty years later forces them to confront their ghost of years past. 

…a must-see heartfelt experience, filled with laughter and compassion.” Theatreview   

At The Court Theatre 
6 June – 4 July 2015 
7:00pm Mon & Thu;
8:00pm Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat;  
Tickets $18-$40
To Book phone 03 963 0870 or visit 

Show Sponsor: Academy Funeral Services 


“…a funny, sharp and ultimately moving play…” The Press

“…a must-see heartfelt experience, filled with laughter and compassion.”Theatreview.

Find out more about Niu Sila at

At Fortune Theatre, 231 Stuart Street, Dunedin  
30 April – 21 May 2016
Lunchtime Bites: Thursday, 21 April,12.30pm in the Dunedin Public Library, ground floor. The actors will perform an excerpt from Niu Sila with an opportunity to win tickets followed by afternoon tea. This is a FREE event.
Opening Night: Saturday, 30 April,7.30pm, Fortune Theatre.
Members’ Briefing: Sunday, 1 May. Meet at the Fortune bar at 3.00pm for a lively informal chat about Niu Sila.
Forum: Tuesday, 3 May. Join the cast and crew for an open question-and-answer session following the 6.00pm show.
Performances:  Tuesday, 6.00pm, Wednesday – Saturday, 7.30pm, Sunday, 4.00pm  
Tickets:  Adults $45,
Early Bird (booking 1 month in advance) $37.50,
Opening Week Ticket (Sunday-Thursday) $37.50,
Senior Citizens $35, Community Services Card $35,
Fortune Theatre Members $32,
Tertiary Students $22 (2-for-1 tickets on Wednesdays with ID),
High School Students $17.50,
Group Discount (10+) $35
Bookings:  Fortune Theatre, 231 Stuart Street, Dunedin 
Box Office 03 477 8323 or visit

Then on tour around Otago and Southland: 
24 May: Oamaru Opera House 
26 May: Ranfurly Town Hall
27 May: Alexandra Memorial Hall
28 and 29 May: Luggate Hall
31 May: Cromwell Memorial Hall
2 June: Invercargill SIT Centrestage
3 June: Tapanui, Blue Mountain College   

Peter Burton – Gregory Cooper 
Ioane Tafioka – Semu Filipo 

Director – Daniel Pengelly
Set Design – Nigel Kerr 
Costume Manager – Sarah Douglas
Lighting Design – Sean Hawkins 
Sound Design – Andrew Todd 
Stage Manager / Operator – Jo Bunce 
Production Manager – Annie Pearce

Theatre ,

Relevant, serious, charming, truthful and extremely funny

Review by Terry MacTavish 01st May 2016

When a playscript works brilliantly whether acted by seasoned professionals or by a couple of rather clueless boys struggling with NCEA Level One Drama Techniques you know it’s something special. With good reason Niu Sila has become one of our most beloved plays, a play that had to be written, so often performed and so influential that it is hardly possible to imagine the NZ theatre scene without it.

Co-writers Dave Armstrong and Oscar Kightley themselves demonstrate the terrific possibilities of Palagi/Pasifika collaboration in their story of Peter and Ioane, best friends from first meeting aged five in 1970s Niu Sila, until they drift apart because of the different social constraints on each. Powerful book-ending scenes show the erstwhile friends meeting by chance twenty years later.

In between are delicious vignettes of the boys growing and learning from each other, Ioane taking Peter to Samoan church, Peter taking Ioane to an orchestral concert. Two actors play Peter and Ioane and everyone else as well, from Peter’s liberal-thinking dad to Ioane’s warm-hearted mum.

The education sector has understandably leapt on it, embracing the expurgated schools’ version rewritten for a cast of 24, producing it regularly and recommending it enthusiastically on teacher web-sites as a sure-fire way to engage the disaffected.  The themes are relevant and serious – racism, social inequality, domestic violence, education, policing, alcohol abuse, gender double standards, religious exploitation – but Niu Sila is charming, touchingly truthful and above all extremely funny.

Co-writer Oscar Kightley has said this is for anyone who wondered what became of that cool kid they made friends with in primary school, and in many ways this is a traditional story of boyhood friendship, like Mark Twain’s disreputable Huck Finn losing his comrade-in-adventure Tom Sawyer as the latter grows into respectable adult life, but Niu Sila is different in that it challenges the social and racial pressures that makes it easy for one boy to succeed and the other to fail. 

This tight Fortune production is the same that recently wowed Court audiences, directed by Daniel Pengelly, featuring Gregory Cooper as Peter and Semu Filipo as Ioane.  The design team of Peter King (set), Garry Kierle (lighting) and Andrew Todd (sound) has produced the perfect vehicle for touring: simple streamlined set, cream squares on the floor, tapa-like panels behind, backlit with subtly changing colours, and sharp sound effects efficiently executed by Anna Vandenbosch.

Pengelly’s direction is polished and seamless, each delightful scene blending into the next, fluid yet lucid, the narrative clear despite the time-jumps and multiple characters.

Playing multiple characters credibly is a particular strength of NZ actors, maybe begun from reasons of Brechtian loftiness, more likely from motives of economy, but now a cherished feature of our national style. Cooper and Filipo are skilled exponents, indicating character with quick changes of accent and mime that is crisply directed and executed: wafted cigarette for nosy neighbour, clasped hands for prim Palagi mum, backache for bigoted teacher. Schoolgirls gossiping (about Ioane’s ponytail!) are indicated with great economy: one pushing a swing, one bouncing a basketball, one brushing her hair – all spring quickly to life.

Interaction with the audience is supremely confident, Cooper as Peter narrating the story frequently and easily addressing us directly, while a front row patron is encouraged to help out with a little light mime. The portrayal of an Indian cricket team the boys somehow join is a masterpiece of comic timing. The actors remain in absolute control of the audience’s emotions: one moment we roar with laughter at the little-boy crudity (“My dick!” is apparently a witty retort to almost anything); the next we fall deathly silent as it becomes clear Ioane is in for a beating, or sense the coming threat to this friendship we are so invested in.

Indeed so in control are Filipo and Cooper that when both actors apparently crack up, giggling over Filipo’s awkwardly inept attempt to show Peter’s dad doing press-ups, somehow it does not break character and the audience is enchanted, so appreciative that I suspect if it wasn’t already a ‘keep that in’ moment from rehearsal, it will be in future! The same cheeky spontaneity is evident in Armstrong and Kightley’s entertaining descriptions of the act of co-writing, which sounds as if it would make an appealing story itself. “More of a relaxed ‘Polynesian’ style of writing than two uptight Palagis arguing over every syllable,” says Armstrong.

Clearly both writing and acting styles are relished by an elated audience, and the story has touched its collective heart. My guest, adopted by a strict Palagi household, recently warmly welcomed into a Māori whanau she hadn’t known she had, is moved to tears.

After such rapturous national response and enthusiastic reviews of Niu Sila for more than a decade there seems little to add, but I want to praise the inspiration Armstrong and Kightley, separately and together, have given the next generation of writers trying to define their identity.  It is not only the boys who have a story to tell, and Armstrong’s sensitive adaptation of Sia Figiel’s Where We Once Belonged lingers in my memory, and is partly responsible no doubt for a young Pasifika woman, Jocelyn Fa’alavelave, securing the Emerging Artist Award at Dunedin 2016 Fringe Festival, for her Dark Side of the Moon

Niu Sila has sold out in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and is sure to be a winner in Dunedin as well.  So best hurry to see a truly captivating Kiwi classic before the Fortune season ends, or you’ll simply have to chase it on tour round the south.


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Flexible, hugely energetic and versatile playing

Review by Lindsay Clark 07th Jun 2015

Staged in the traverse, banked on both sides by the audience, this popular work is as intimate and warmly conveyed a piece of social and cultural observation as you are likely to meet. The two actors, filling multiple roles, are totally exposed to our presence and we are aware of our counterparts just beyond them, reflecting our own responses, smiling our own smiles. The lives imagined by co-writers Oscar Kightley and Dave Armstrong inhabit a very focussed world crafted by director Daniel Pengelly and his team. 

A chance encounter in a TAB brings two childhood friends face to face after many years. Peter Burton is resolutely rebuffed by his old mate Ioane Tafioka, providing the provocation for the pointed and frequently hilarious flashback narrated by Peter, replaying the years of their childhood friendship. It begins when Ioane, a smiling and extroverted five year old, fresh from his Pacific homeland, claims classmate Peter as a special buddy by calling at his house to collect him for the walk to school. 

Their involvement with each other’s families and protocols is the stuff of the play, gleaning from cultural differences an easy ongoing humour which sharpens into something altogether more poignant in the final scene when they are back in the TAB, meeting for a last time. There is no shortage of material or characters in this cross cultural world where stereotypes are smartly dealt with and racism itself is mocked. 

It is a headlong rush through their shared childhood experiences but covers a range from school to religion, fishing to orchestral concert and cricket. Inevitably it seems, police, booze and the justice system come into it, but there are laughs all the way and the audience is simply charmed. 

With only two actors to embody them, the cavalcade of characters passing in full view calls for split second switches and flawless passing of focus from one to the other. If they are stereotypical, the folk of Niu Sila are nevertheless finely detailed in terms of their language and physicality. Flexible, hugely energetic and versatile playing is the order of the evening. 

Gregory Cooper as Peter Burton, the Palagi part of the pairing, rides the opportunities with accomplished ease, while Semu Filipo, making his debut at The Court, is in his element, adding to the scripted role a shameless and delightful ability to woo the audience in the front rows. 

Production elements stack up well for this treatment, with simple, effective contributions from Nigel Kerr (set), Andrew Todd (sound) Sean Hawkins (lighting) and Sarah Douglas (costume management). 

Both writers have a serious perspective on the way brown and white New Zealanders share their daily round, but it is the laughter above all which charms us in this play. The team at The Court makes sure of that.


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