Poets Before Me

Hannah Playhouse, Cnr Courtenay Place & Cambridge Terrace, Wellington

09/03/2024 - 09/03/2024

NZ Fringe Festival 2024

Production Details

Moana Leota (MOZIE): Performer, Writer, Producer
Leonardo Coghini: Musical Director, Keys

Moana Leota (aka Mozie) and her live band will grace the stage to honour the power of poetry in music. Captured in some of the most highly acclaimed songs by artists including, Leonard Cohen, Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell. Poets Before Me illustrates how these legendary artists have used poetry to create timeless tunes that connect with us all. Moana will also share how these iconic poets have influenced her own life and shaped her journey as a singer-songwriter.

Hannah Playhouse – 12 Cambridge Terrace, Wellington
9th March 2024 – 7:30pm (One Night only)
Tickets: Full Price $30, Concession $28, Fringe Addict $24


Simon Blackwell: Sound Technician
Jacob Banks: Lighting Technician

Darren Mathiassen: Drums
Jason Rapana: Bass
Joseph Jenkins: Guitar/ Vocals
Frankie Leota: Vocals
Lauren Jack: Viola
Hayden Afele-Nickel: Violin
Tessa Dalgety-Evans: Cello

Music , Poetry , Theatre ,

60 Minutes

Emotional, funny, moving, hypnotic, lyrical and profound 

Review by Donna Banicevich Gera 10th Mar 2024

The Hannah Playhouse is bursting at the seams. High energy and happiness floats above the heads of the excited crowd climbing the stairs, making their way into the theatre. Everyone is talking about Moana Leota (aka Mozie), the writer, producer and performer of Poets Before Me.

She has promised a performance that will honour the power of poetry in music, capturing some of the famous songs we all know so well. Covering the work of performers such as Leonard Cohen, Kate Bush, and Joni Mitchell to name a few.

We’ve been told Mozie will share how these stars of the music world influenced her growth and contributed to her own journey into a life of singing and song writing. Anticipation and expectations are high. 

And of course, she doesn’t disappoint. Very quickly I realise this is a performer who understands the power of storytelling and giving shape to a performance. Early on she pays tribute to her mother, and her family, setting us off on the start of her journey and poets who have impacted her. As the show progresses however, we have the privilege of listening to her own work.

The songs she has written, delivered with humility and a little healthy banter, show the quality and depth of this performer. ‘Let You Go’’, That Place’, ‘Undo Me’ and ‘Not Done Loving’, to name some, are the songs I could listen to again and again. For me, they form the high point of her framework. Finally, she takes us to her current life, her partner, her baby son and how life is now.

There is a standing ovation. Everybody loves her. In her encores her baby joins her on stage, resting on her hip, arms moving to the music. We get to meet the ‘Sun Shines’ – a children’s dance group who Mozie explains are :the next generation of poets and song writers.” The circle of life is complete. Superb stuff.

The performance is enhanced by the incredible skills of the musical director and keyboard player, Leonardo Coghini. The band includes vocalist Frankie Leota (Mozies’ mother), guitarist and vocalist Joseph Jenkins, drummer Darren Mathiassen, Jason Rapana on bass, Hayden Afele-Nickel on violin, Tessa Dalgety-Evans on cello, and Lauren Jack on viola.  All supported by sound technician Simon Blackwell. These are a talented group who all make their presence felt and contribute to the overall gob-smacking show.

Mozie pays tribute to her mother for the flower arrangements that adorn the sides of the stage – they are wonderful. For me however, the single bloom that stands centre stage at the start, in the gorgeous hot pink dress, steals the show. The lighting design by Jacob Banks does more than complement the opening vision.

Poets Before Me is an emotional, funny, moving, hypnotic production. It swings with wide smoothness between joy, insight, Mosie’s personal life, and the history of musicians, songwriters, and poets of the past. It’s lyrical, and profound.

Moana Leota is sitting in a direct line, connecting her inspirations and influences on the poets work she has chosen to profile. One only has to look at this world, one senses, to understand where she is coming from in her own poetry, song writing, and music.

I feel an immediate connection to her own work and believe this is the highlight of her show. Her lyrics rush us into reality, full of colour, and touch, and taste.  I find this performance a wonderful, hypnotic reveal of fabulous scope and tremendous iridescent charm.

The worst thing about this performance is that it is only on for one night. I feel sorry for those who aren’t here, who missed this. Someone following me down the stairs is saying to their partner, “Why didn’t I know about her before?” So, where to next? That is the question.

This is a true diamond, glinting with something special, shining in all its glory.


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