Red, White, and Brass

ASB Waterfront Theatre, 138 Halsey St, Wynyard Quarter, Auckland

18/06/2024 - 07/07/2024

Production Details

Direction: Anapela Polata'ivao
Director: Vela Manusaute
Director: Petmal Petelo Lam
Music Director: Joanna Mika Toloa
Playwright: Leki Jackson-Bourke
Dramaturg: Allison Horsley

Auckland Theatre Company
Co-produced by Piki Films and Miss Conception Films.

It’s 2011 in Wellington and the seventh Rugby World Cup is just around the corner. Reprising his film role, John-Paul Foliaki stars as Maka, a Tongan superfan, who will do whatever it takes to score tickets for the most important game of their lives – the Tonga versus France Rugby World Cup game.

When Maka and his cousin Veni fail in getting tickets, they decide to form a traditional Tongan marching band for the pre-match entertainment, just so they can go to the game. The only problem is, the band doesn’t exist and Maka has four weeks to put one together.

With the help of his fāmily, his mates and local church members, Maka rallies together a band of misfits who know nothing about marching, nor do they have any instruments.

What starts out as just a cynical scam to see a rugby game becomes a journey of self-discovery in which Maka and Veni will learn the importance of their Tongan culture, their community, and what really matters in life.

Inspired by an amazing ’straight-up’ true story and with bucketloads of Tongan māfana (warmth), Red, White and Brass is a story of friendship, family and fearlessly standing up for what you believe in.

Co-produced by Piki Films and Miss Conception Films.

A stage adaptation commissioned by Auckland Theatre Company of the film Red, White and Brass. Film screenplay by Halaifonua Finau and Damon Fepulea’i, and directed by Damon Fepulea’i.

ASB Waterfront Theatre, Auckland
18 June – 7 July 2024

Production Designer: Sean Coyle
Costume Designer: Chrissy Vaega
Sound Designer: Matt Eller
Choreographer: Mario Faumui
Assistant Music Director: ‘Aisea Latu

Terrence: Haanz Fa'avae-Jackson
Samisoni: Mikey Falesiu
Maka: John-Paul ‘JP’ Foliaki
Reverend Pita: Onetoto Ikavuka
Veni: Saale Ilaua
Liz: Lauren Jackson
Irene: Diamond Langi
Shonny: ‘Aisea Latu
Reverend Hansell: Jason Manumu'a
Laki: Rocky Manusaute
Elisiva: Sesilia Pusiaki
Aroha: Michaela Te Awa Bird
Sefo: Kasi Valu

Theatre , Music ,

2hrs 20mins

A big dose of sunshine that you cannot allow to exist without you.

Review by Genevieve McClean 21st Jun 2024

Happy, happy Tonga!! What an epic, classic show!

Red, White, and Brass is a big dose of sunshine on the big stage at the ASB Waterfront right now, so I recommend school groups to be gearing up for a bus trip if they possibly can, oh and anyone else who needs a midwinter ray of sunshine in their life.  What can I say, trust the Bro-cess and get yourself and all the family along to see this play.  It’s funny, uplifting and beautifully crafted by a talented team under the direction of Vela Manusaute and Anapela Polata’ivao. 

In the director’s notes, they mention that a strength of Leki Jackson-Bourke’s adaptation “lies in the nuanced and complex strands of family dynamics” and I could not have put it better. The delicately balanced and yet strenuously performed story is certainly cleverly constructed. It’s irreverent, heartfelt; moving and hilarious, and it’s excellently choreographed and directed. Especially funny is the illustrative caricature style when the focus is directed onto the tough bros in the background.

The energy and drive brings the momentum of the Tongan rugby fever story adapted from the film of the same name that bursts on to the stage in a way that is charismatic and charming, but also very very energizing!  A production full of love and life, and very funny.

My fifteen year old counterpart in searching for the best way to express his experience of the show: “ I loved it, I loved all of it”, he told me, “I didn’t only like any of it, I loved it all. It had a good meaning to it, that you should never give up on something. And the story was well played, it was like a musical. The lead actor made it all seem real. I would go and see it again”. (Nixon Kayes, 15).

John Paul Foliaki lights up the stage within tight choreographies that are woven into the musical numbers so well that they make it look easy. It’s only at the close of a scene the audience is left contemplating just how much of the action takes place literally while air-bourne. It’s a play that generally defies gravity. Foliaki is an impressive dancer, and he inhabits the core of the show with incendiary energy, the charm factor is dialed up to the very top and the pride of Tonga is hoisted like the flag, oh – that reminds me, the flag dance that kicks off the show, my goodness. Not to mention …  

There is an interwovenness that shows so beautifully when all factors of a production are humming perfectly on stage and seeing the first few scenes bring up these perfectly poised vignettes already suggests that this will be a continuum of that kind of balance. Sean Coyle’s elemental lighting, alongside a soundscape and costume design that don’t overpower but create a resonant epic effect of space and time, draws you in and carries you along with it. Tonga! The narratives are so clear and the humour and personality that the actors bring decorates those structures really well. Maka, our hero is carried by an ensemble that matches his energy. The delight from the audience felt as though it was a part of the show with the people in the theatre matching the pre-match fever of the Tonga-France Rugby match in 2011, as the play reaches its crescendo.

The sure to win design of the story is crafted by Leki Jackson-Bourke into a stage-play from the film originally written and based on a true story.  That in turn was created by Halaifonua Finau and Damon Fepulea’i for the movie version of Red White and Brass based on Finau’s own true story.  What an extraordinary lineage of storytelling has grown from that spirited drive to entertain and represent the heart of Tonga to the world.

If you are not Tongan, it’s that big dose of Tonga you maybe didn’t know you needed. If you are Tongan, it’s that big dose of Tonga you maybe need right now. Either way, Tongan or not, you simply can’t allow this show to exist without you.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council
Waiematā Local Board logo