09/02/2016 - 13/02/2016
PACIFIC ISLAND LESBIANS TAKE THE SPOTLIGHT
With a title like Black Faggot, people don’t tend to skip past your show – and in this year’s Auckland Pride Festival, Victor Rodger has helped create another biting and hilarious hit in PUZZY.
He has got behind newcomer Kiki’s sure-fire theatrical debut which highlights the life of Pacific Island lesbians, from 9-13 February at Basement Theatre. Kiki is a Hawaiian based Samoan-Filipina lesbian, a writer who is finally giving voice to a sector of the Pacific Island community that has long been invisible.
Mele is just your average Samoan Jehovah’s Witness – except she’s a lesbian. After she comes out and embarks on a quest for true love, she encounters a wide range of characters from her disapproving Elder John to her straight best friend Tina Turner and ultimately her first true love.
Kiki and Victor met in 2006 when he was the Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer in residence at the University of Hawaii. Last year she performed in Victor’s My Name is Gary Cooper, in Hawaii. Victor encouraged Kiki to represent for her lesbian community and decided to work alongside Kiki to write a hilarious, touching and delectable script as a sister play to Black Faggot. Black Faggot itself has had huge national and international acclaim including touring to Edinburgh Fringe Festival, across Australia and numerous presentations in New Zealand.
Arts Laureate Anapela Polataivao (winner of Best Director at last year’s Auckland Fringe Awards for Victor’s play Girl on a Corner) helped present excerpts of the script at one of the monthly play readings that Victor has been runs through his company F.C.C. With plays such as The Factory under her belt, Anapela brings PUZZY to life with the help of performers Nora Aati (My Name is Gary Cooper) and newcomer Malia Ahovelo.
“funny and heartfelt … fast and furious” – The Guardian on Black Faggot
“wonderfully poignant, extremely brave and often confronting” – Broadway Baby on Black Faggot
Photo by award winning photographer Ane Tonga.
Part of the Auckland Pride Festival 2016 which runs from Friday 5 February – Sunday 21 February 2016. For more information visit www.aucklandpridefestival.org.nz
Dates: 9 – 13 February, 9pm
Venue: Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland CBD
Tickets: $18.50 – $23.00 [no booking fees]
Bookings: www.basementtheatre.co.nz or phone iTicket 09 361 1000
Starring Frankie Adams, Nora Aati, Gaby Solomona and Malia Ahovelo
Lighting Design by Marshall Bull
Poetry from the Puzzy
Review by Courtney Bassett 12th Feb 2016
A major concern in theatre that deals with LGBTIQ identity is often the validity of labels. Which box do we fit into? Do we have to decide? Gay? Lesbian? Bi? These are the questions hurled at Mele (Frankie Adams) in the opening sequence of Puzzy, and immediately reflects a relatable plight for young people uncertain of the identity which best describes them. What sets Puzzy apart from other queer theatre, is its exploration not only of these questions of sexual and gender identities, but of other identifiers such as ‘Jehovah’s witness’ and ‘Samoan’ in relation to being a young lesbian. Mele’s got a lot of labels to work through, but as she frantically proclaims at the very start of the play, “All I know is that I like pussy!”
Playwright Kiki is a Hawaiian based, Samoan-Filipina lesbian writer, and her original text has been adapted from a Hawaiian setting to New Zealand, with the help of Black Faggot writer Victor Rodger. [More]
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Brave, engaging and necessary
Review by Dione Joseph 11th Feb 2016
Stories have the power to shift perceptions, to change the dominant discourse and every now and then they can simply rock the world. Puzzy by Kiki does exactly that. Not because ‘coming out’ stories are new but because each time an individual believes that their voice deserves to be heard, in their own words and on their own terms, there is a tremor that causes yet another very necessary crack to the institutional infrastructure of our society.
This is the story of Mele, a Hawaii-based Samoan-Filipina Jehovah’s Witness lesbian who has to face not only her friends reactions but also those of the Elders in her community. Most terrifying of all she must come to terms with the likelihood that her sexual preferences will give her beloved grandmother a heart attack, a responsibility that she is rather unwilling to shoulder.
It’s a rapid-fire set of various vignettes that follow Mele’s journey, punctuated with laughter as we watch sparks fly on Tinder and OkCupid. There is tenderness in recognising the challenges she faces in reconciling her faith and her sexuality; and finally, a sense of relief and satisfaction as she finds her own place, inevitably, at her own pace.
Victor Rodger is an old hand at creating and delivering work that is unapologetically bold and brilliant and this new writing features his mentorship and support. Billed as a companion piece to Black Faggot, it is certainly a complementary take on a similar issue (raising the profile of the LGBT pasifika community) but equally it stands well on its own two feet.
Directed by Anapela Polataivao, this group of talented young women – including Frankie Adams (Mele), Nora Aati, Gaby Solomona and Malia ’Ahovelo – are an incredibly powerful posse who bring back sass, seduction and smart with a delicious dose of personality and authenticity. The acting is a genuine highlight, all four women refute any stereotypical pretensions and under Polataivao’s light touch there is smooth and engaging meta-narrative that holds the work together and provides much more than a lesbian’s ‘coming-out-story’.
There is tension, latent emotional abuse, family conflicts, and conversations with God that stir pathos as they invoke the casualties of colonialism. The script credit ‘features’ Victor Rodger and while it’s a play (not a soundtrack) his presence is woven throughout the work; those familiar with his plays will easily to see how he has sculpted the script.
It’s not perfect, occasionally it’s even predictable, but that doesn’t take away from the reality of seeing these stories told on stage. The play starts somewhat nervously but it soon gathers momentum as the four co-stars unwrap their characters in all their complexities.
Aati, Solomona and ’Ahovelo all play multiple characters, each performer combining a strong physicality with the ability to easily transition through a myriad of scenarios with clarity and distinction.
Dressed in stage blacks and performing under very simple lighting, it’s a work that has huge potential, in fact it is literally simmering with desire to take it to the next level. The script still needs to evolve and in its current incarnation requires the development of the core drama of the narrative and strengthening of the transitions, segues and space that are often told, rather than shown.
The heart of the play lies in the fact that while, yes, it is a play that deals with pride in who you are, it also casts a light on how influential relationships are with one’s grandparents – so much accountability (often self-imposed), fear and desire for approval are all meshed together. One of the definitive breakthroughs of the script is Kiki’s ability to capture that moment and Adams’ ability to deliver it with such poignancy and truth.
This is radical theatre. Brave, engaging and necessary. It’s on a journey. Get along for the ride.
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