Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

27/09/2022 - 08/10/2022

Production Details

By Estelle Chout
Directed by Dione Joseph

Producer: Daisy Remington

Presented by Black Creatives Aotearoa (BCA)

After a long and tumultuous journey, Mission Bay locals Flo and her wife Jo are in the final stages of adopting a child, and now, they’re ready to share the imminent arrival of the newest member of their family with Marie, Flo’s highly conservative big sister. Expect fireworks as Flo and Jo prepare to break the news and get ready for a dinner party that you won’t forget.

Po’ Boys n Oysters is a deep dive into what it means to be Black, lesbian, and living in Tāmaki Makaurau. Funny and sophisticated, this new and original play by Estelle Chout (2021 Adam NZ Play Award finalist) dishes up insights into sibling dynamics, cultural differences, and the ultimate power of family. Directed by Dione Joseph and featuring Estelle Chout, Sandra Zvenyika and Layla Pitt with Andrew Johnson and Jack Briden.

Nominated for an Adam’s NZ Playwright Award in 2021, Po’ Boys and Oysters deals with family dynamics, a clash of class, politics and cultures and the challenges for a same sex Black couple yearning to adopt a child.

“I rarely see someone like myself – a proud Black queer mother – represented on the stage. I wrote Po’ Boys and Oysters to give these characters a voice and provide a platform to a group that have rarely been seen or represented in our theatre,” says Estelle, who was born in the Caribbean island of Martinique and who moved to New Zealand from London with her family.

Black Creatives Aotearoa (BCA), founded by Dione Joseph, is a collective of more than 500 members of Black New Zealand artists of African and Afro-Caribbean heritage who now call Aotearoa home.

Basement Theatre, Auckland
27 September – 8 October 2022
$18 – $38

Estelle Chout || Flo
Layla Pitt || Jo 
Sandra Zvenyika || Marie
Andrew Johnson || Shane
Jack Briden || Felix
Francois Byamana || Papa

Director || Dione Joseph
Producer || Daisy Remington
Dramaturg-Marketing || Aroha Awarua
Assistant Director || Keagan Fransch
CoPro Producer || Julie Zhu

Choreographer || Otis Herring
Set Design || Natalia Pereira
Lighting || Molloy
Lighting || Sam
Sound Design || Michelle Mascoll
Costume Design || Félise du Chateau
Graphic Design || Anabel Fernandez
Assistant Stage Manager || Gemma-Jayde Naidoo

Costume Construction || Asya Mohamed Abeid
Make up || Julia Ruth Smith
Ceramicist || Lindsey de Roos
Videographer || Bertie Remaut
Photographer || Micheal Loh 

Theatre ,

1 hr 20 min

Serves up a plate of real that leaves you warm and satisfied

Review by Jade Winterburn 28th Sep 2022

Stepping through the doors of The Basement’s main theatre has never felt so much like visiting a real home.  Watching, listening and feeling in the room as the various tensions rise, and relief has never so acutely matched the rhythms of spending time with actual family… or at least, a family that’s a touch theatrical.

At the centre of this authenticity is writer Estelle Chout, playing Flo. I must admit to having a weakness for the particular ‘slice of life’ style of play, but the fullness that comes from playwrights writing what they know so very intimately always leads to something special. She plays her character, Flo, with a believable blend of charisma and flaws. In her I feel the crucial nuance of not just her character, but her character playing (and failing to maintain) a successful dinner host.

Coupled with Flo is her partner Jo, played by Layla Pitt. As a queer woman myself, it was refreshing to see a play featuring a lesbian couple that isn’t focused on depicting conflict beyond the personality clashes that still happen in a loving partnership. The narrative surrounding their decision to adopt, the barriers they face, and the considerations made regarding the complexities of honouring racial and cultural identity in the adoption process, are refreshingly honest while holding strong to the necessary joy.

Sandra Zvenyika plays Flo’s sister, Marie. She and her supporting partner Shane (Andrew Johnson) are the heterosexual, National-voting foils to Flo and Jo. Combative and sarcastic jabs from Marie raise the tension on matters both personal and political, which makes it all the more impressive that the familial intimacy between her and Flo isn’t lost for even a moment. For the same motivating sense of care and duty she travels between hurtful and healing with such naturalism, you can truly feel – in Natalia Pereira’s reconstruction of a kitchen and lounge – you are simply a guest at dinner with two sisters butting heads.

Jack Briden appears as Felix, the jester-cum-uninvited guest brought along by Marie and Shane, helps relieve tension through straightforwardly ignorant comments and awkward impropriety.

Kudos to director Dione Joseph for impeccably bringing it all together. The attention given to the blocking and movements of the characters not speaking in each moment or absent from the limelight is a particularly nice touch: entire scenes played out silently and convincingly without being too much of a distraction from the main action.

Furthermore, although this is often taken for granted, I must note appreciation for the techs and other behind-the-scenes work. Precarity of these positions has led to many talented technical staff, who make this level of presentation possible, leaving the industry due to the impact of the pandemic, and I’ve seen a handful of shows with awkward but forgivable errors since theatres have reopened. This isn’t the case here, as well-designed lighting changes and audio cues hit the mark with the precision that makes you forget a human being is responsible.

I’m sure having the show delayed multiple times due to the coronavirus was an incredible frustration to the cast and crew. It’s easy to see why they persisted. A play this full of vitality and truth simply needs to be seen and will animate those in its orbit until it happens. In my view, the repeated cycles of preparation have absolutely had a positive impact on the overall performance, as the actors have had time to get to know each other and their roles incredibly well.

The affect given to the comfortable familiarity and intimacy of the two couples is what takes Po’ Boys and Oysters to a level above most theatre. It serves up a plate of real that leaves you warm and satisfied. Don’t miss it.

Po’ Boys and Oysters is the first piece of theatre developed with support from Black Creatives Aotearoa to make it to stage. It’s claimed that this is the first black lesbian piece of theatre to be performed in The Basement, and I’m glad to see it. Although we’re a multicultural society, especially in Auckland, too often does representation of our diversity fall slightly short of everyone in our community, and Black Creatives Aotearoa is doing great work to platform and support black artists. I hope to hear more black voices on stage and see more communities find themselves represented in theatre in the future.

  • Copyright © belongs to the reviewer


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council