Downstage Theatre, Wellington

29/04/2009 - 07/05/2009

BATS Theatre, Wellington

13/02/2009 - 17/02/2009

NZ Fringe Festival 2009

Production Details

Polyzygotic and Samoan? Follow this set of triplets as they attempt to find their own uniqueness in a family packed out with tradition, rules, structure, and KFC.

Season: Friday 13 – Tuesday 17 February
Time: 6.30pm
Tickets: $16 full / $12 concession / $10 Fringe Addict cardholders  

book now! book@bats.co.nz  

PICK OF THE FRINGE at Downstage:
6pm, 29 April – 7 May

Book at Downstage Theatre on
04 801 6946.

Free Post Show TalkBack
Tue 5 May (after the last show)

Ticket Prices (per show)
(General Admission)

Full Price: $25
Students: $20
Fringe Addict Card: $20
Season Ticket for all 3 shows: $60 



Greater clarity and polish in cheery hour of cultural stereotyping

Review by Melody Nixon 01st May 2009

Poly-Zygotic opens with the same energy and confidence as we witnessed at its Bats Fringe debut.  The actors are grounded and gain instant laughs from the audience.  The simple set performs much the same function in the space of Downstage as it did in the smaller theatre space across the road, and we are once more taken into a familiar setting of sibling rivalry, comedic banter and outrageous showing off, Newtown-Samoa style.

Immediately noticeable, however, is how much greater the character definition is between the three siblings.  Aso (Taofi Mose-Tuiloma) is now definitively caught up in being a show girl – Masina (Tupe Lualua) is, in contrast, a tough cookie and much more pragmatic than her looks-obsessed sister. And Tausaga (Asalemo Tofete) differentiates himself from the girls with a wider range of body language and voice.  We can now clearly see who Masina is talking about when she quips “one of these things is not like the other…”.

Despite their differences, the siblings all share a desire to be someone “big.” For Aso it’s a pop star; Masina sees herself on America’s Next Top Model, and Tausaga has a vaguer, sleazier dream: to be the “Casanova of the Pacific.” In the final scene we see Tausaga fulfilling that dream, in a sense, and wonder if he will succeed in overcoming the threat of being eternally labeled ‘fiafuko’ like his sister.

It is clear the cast and their co-devisor Anya Tate-Manning have undergone some intense workshopping since Poly-Zygotic’s opening.  The actors enunciation is much more crystalline and the story-line (while, perhaps disappointingly, unmodified) plays out in easy-to-follow sequence. The aunties (played by Tuiloma, Lualua and Tofete in turn) move between distinct settings – the road side, the church – whereas in version 1.0 they seemed to, generally, be hanging out on a street corner.  It is great fun to hear the aunties’ stories in more detail and the actors appear equally entertained by their characters.

Workshop director Nathaniel Lees may have introduced a little too much simplification in parts, as jokes are explained that don’t need to be – for example, Aso’s “line man” joke – but in general the result is a carefully crafted and more polished work that retains its core of crowd-pleasing humour.  The only moments that jar are Masina’s Shu’s Shoes story, which could perhaps be less rushed, or broken up with more interaction; and the aunties’ second scene which drags, and seems to slow the pace of the whole play.

But all in all Polyzygotic remains a carefree and unashamedly straight-up piece, made all the more accessible for this Pick of the Fringe season. Brother Tausaga’s struggle for self-differentiation and sibling / family / village competitiveness are the only dark clouds to cross what is an otherwise cheery hour of cultural stereotyping and some good – and now, clearly explained – laughs.


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An enjoyable way to spend an hour

Review by Lynn Freeman 25th Feb 2009

In Poly-zygotic Samoan and English wove in and out of the narrative. As with Words Apart, it was a bit like tuning in to Shakespeare; once you let your mind relax and not get uptight about not understanding every word but rely more on the actions,  you get it.   

Poly-Zygotic is a gentle romp, where non-identical triplets work on a routine for the local talent show.  But the competition is intense and as well as looking different, the three have contrasting personalities.

As well as playing the triplets, the three actors – Taofi Mose-Tuiloma, Tupe Lualua and Asalemo Tofete – enjoy playing three matriarchs who comment scathingly on everything and everyone in the neighbourhood.

It’s a bit too loose at times, feeling stretched to fit the allotted time, but an enjoyable way to spend an hour.


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Fun with little depth

Review by Helen Sims 23rd Feb 2009

Poly-zygotic is a play about Samoan triplets. Two are the same, one is different – is it the boy contrasted with his two sisters? Or the short one contrasted with her two tall siblings? This question is never really resolved, but it emerges that all of them are outsiders – as a group and individually. Although the play bills itself as following the triplets’ attempt to find their ‘uniqueness’, it seems that they have been unique from birth – not only because they are triplets, but because they come from a ‘black sheep’ family that has been marked by tragedy. Although the triplets are the subjects of neighbourhood pity, they are far from feeling sorry for themselves.

Due to death and absent family members the triplets are largely left to their own devices. They play focuses on their preparations for the annual White Sunday performance. Although they are determined to win this year, their rival has recruited her famous cousin, Robbie Magasiva, to play Jesus. They want to come up with something fresh and original, but all their brainstorming leads to ideas which are highly derivative. Brother Tausaga (Asalemo Tofete) wants to write a hard-hitting drama, but his sisters Aso and Masina (Taofi Mose and Tupe Lualua) favour something lighter, to show off their beauty and singing prowess. I noticed from the programme that both women have experience in dance – I was surprised this wasn’t drawn on more in the show.

The structure of the play is fairly simple, with scenes oscillating between the triplets rehearsing for their performance and commentary from the local ‘aunties’ (played by the same three actors who quickly change into gaudy dresses). The observations of the aunties do serve a useful device of filling in the ‘back story’ of the triplets, although they are a little rambling at points. The scenes focusing on the triplets captures a family dynamic perfectly through their squabbling and teasing that shows an underlying bond. The play culminates with their White Sunday performance – but I won’t give away what they come up with in the end.

The play is fun and the audience enjoyed themselves immensely, but there is little depth to it. Its satire isn’t as sharp as Bro’ Town (for example), there is little character development, its insights aren’t complex and the cultural references are mostly to American television. Although entertaining I couldn’t help but feel a little cheated given the obvious talent of the performers and their familiarity with the subject matter – I wish they had challenged themselves a little more. For a future outing the show would need development – but the promise is there.

Originally published in The Lumière Reader.



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Skillful and totally engaging

Review by Melody Nixon 15th Feb 2009

Poly-Zygotic draws on many cultural stereotypes of Samoa to spin its brand of what might loosely be called Pacifica-cabaret style humour. Cabaret style because the play is imbued with many sassy moments of solo performances and hip-hop breakouts (even if these are done with delicious irony.) And Pacifica style because the play draws on typing of Pacific Island communities, and weaves Samoan words and phraseology into the mix, often making self-referential jokes out of the accent or pronunciation.

There are old ‘aunties’ gossiping, alternately lovely and cruel. They touch on domestic violence and threats of ‘beatings;’ the thread of Christian values and decorum; and perhaps as a broader small-community theme, the failed pipe-dreams of fame and glamour. It feels strange to be to be laughing at the cruelty these stereotypes represent at times, but the humour is pulled off with such clear enjoyment by the trio of talented actors that ultimately the whole audience becomes involved.

The actors – Taofi Mose as the smooth yet girlish Aso, Asalemo Tofete as the earnest wallflower with hidden depths Tausaga, and Tupe Lualua as the sassy extrovert Masina – spin these stereotypes into a tale of triplets growing up in Samoa looking for something that will mark each one of them as different. The story revolves around preparations for a final ‘White Sunday’ performance that will demonstrate to their family and friends their talent and individuality.

All three performers are skillful and totally engaging; Tofete perhaps stands out for the nuance he brings to his conflicted character, while Mose-Tuiloma has a grounded confidence that makes her very believable. Tope Lualua seems a little uneasy in some of her extended monologues, despite her talent for impersonation, and could shorten some of these or work at speaking with greater clarity.

The title, meaning of many gene-pools, with an obvious riff on Polynesia, has to be one of the wittiest in the Fringe. It also hints at a deeper and more revealing exploration of Samoan and cross-Pacific identity than is given in the play. I felt that sometimes the potentially interesting insight and revelation – like when Masina nonchalantly explains to Aso the meaning of Poly-zygoticism in the context of their own family – came at the expense of the (albeit very well done) humour.

Some of the Samoan language is comprehensive to a reasonably unexposed Palangi. Aso’s references to "siva" and "kisi" in her super-sensual riff on You Give me Fever are not hard to get (the gestures help), and her routine here is hilarious; but a lot of the other phrases and jokes are lost on me in my relative ignorance. This is clearly not the case for most of the rest of the audience, and I came away knowing more gagana Sâmoa than when I went in; but if (and only if) the production wants to reach out to its Palangi audience also we could maybe do with a bit of a hand in this regard.

Poly-zygotic might in some way signal a move away from those Pacifica plays like Frangipani Perfume, which use language as a tool to build on their themes of cultural hegemony and what it’s like to be subjected to all-English theatre in a culturally diverse community; to plays which simply use language because there’s an audience for it, and an appreciation of it. While Poly-Zygotic may not be the most revealing or penetrating of pieces it is enjoyable for the talent of its actors and the energetic gusto of its humour.


Melody Nixon February 16th, 2009

Yes, agree. The play also puns on the diverse make-up of people in Samoa, and how their genes come from many different areas within Samoa (also referenced in the affliations in the programme).

My interpretation, and I think this was mentioned in the play, is that zygote also means 'joined' or melded together -- and poly-zygotic can also mean multiple links or 'joins.'  It feeds into the wider theme of being melded together but trying to differentiate oneself.

Barnaby Fredric February 16th, 2009

Doesn't "poly-zygotic" refer to the fact that they are triplets?

In the case of twins, they can be monozygotic (identical) or dizygotic (fraternal). This is clearly a play on that.

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