Niu Sila

Theatre Royal, TSB Showplace, New Plymouth

27/07/2006 - 29/07/2007

Repertory Theatre, Christchurch

27/07/2006 - 29/07/2007

Production Details

by Oscar Kightley and Dave Armstrong
directed by Conrad Newport

Following sell out seasons in Auckland, Wellington and Wanaka, Niu Sila, the award winning NZ comedy that traces a friendship spanning over thirty years, two cultures and one neighbourhood, plays the Christchurch Arts Festival (Repertory Theatre, 27- 29 July) then the Taranaki Festival of the Arts (Theatre Royal, TSB Showplace, 3-5 August).

Fresh-off-the-boat six-year-old Ioane Tafioka moves in next door to six-year-old Palagi Peter Burton. It is here, in Auckland, in the 70’s that they begin an unlikely friendship that will change their lives forever. With a cast of drunken relatives, corrupt ministers, chardonnay-socialist academics, a staunch no-nonsense Polynesian matriarch, and an entire local Indian cricket team, this thought-provoking story will amuse, entertain and challenge.

“Deceptively simple in its presentation, Niu Sila turns out to be a rich and satisfying experience, with complex currents rippling beneath its warm, delightful, generous flow. It’s the sort of play that reminds us why theatre was invented ” – National Business Review

“… (Niu Sila) both hilariously and touchingly flits its way through the dark woods of racial and cultural differences … a timely and highly entertaining play.” – The Dominion Post

Niu Sila is a collaboration between two of New Zealand’s top comedy writers Oscar Kightley (The Naked Samoans, Bro’town) and Dave Armstrong (Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby) and won a 2004 Chapman Tripp Theatre Award for best new NZ play and was named best play for 2005 by Auckland’s Metro Magazine. Playing more than 30 characters Niu Sila stars Dave Fane (Naked Samoans, Bro’Town) and Damon Andrews (The Tribe).

Dave Fane
Damon Andrews

Theatre ,

1 hr 15 min, no interval

All pervasive laughter

Review by Lindsay Clark 28th Jul 2007

It is impossible not to warm to this production from the moment the polished pair of Damon Andrews and Dave Fane take the stage. The relationship between the diminutive palagi and the statuesque Samoan is entirely captivating. Fleshing out a script saturated with humour and insight, they are irresistible.

As a key production within the Christchurch Arts Festival the Kightley/Armstrong collaboration may well be the benchmark for many theatregoers, against which they measure the rest on offer. Heart and head are both engaged as cultural differences encountered by the two friends provide the material for much laughter, a parade of dinkum characters and just a hint of the societal gaps good humour alone cannot bridge.

Inextricably bonded in their early schooling, Peter Burton (Damon Andrews ) and Ione Tafioka (Dave Fane) will nevertheless experience quite different lives and there are no prizes for nominating which will have the most comfortable time of it. But this is feel-good comedy. Issues of social justice are treated with a light touch. As long as the friends can laugh together, the world is a fine place.

Inevitably it seems, they are  separated by the choices, commitments and crises of adulthood. Unsentimentally, their final meeting restates what we have known all along, that it is easier to laugh at differences than it is to solve them.

The two actors who bring this fine work to life have the ease and rapport of a long partnership. Together they establish, as well as the central characters, a cheekily sketched range of parents and community figures with absolute ease and conviction. On the open stage, their physical and vocal control is a constant delight. Age, gender and social insights are conveyed by the turn of a head, or a couple of sentences.

Laughter is all pervasive, though sympathies firmly underscore the lack of understanding even liberal and fair minded folk display when faced with cultural challenges. Perhaps this is because the narrator is the palagi character. From Ione’s point of view, would things have been the same? The production touches lightly then on moments of embarrassment and violence. Above all, it is so rewarding because it helps us believe in camaraderie and through shared laughter the audience itself leaves warm and smiling.


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