BATS Theatre, The Propeller Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
14/08/2018 - 18/08/2018
Plastic. White. Not raised in the Fa’a Samoa. Can’t speak the language. Afakasi.
“I went from factually brown to actually brown.” Victor Rodger
After 10 years of silence Noah discovers the father who abandoned his mother to raise him on her own is dying. Though discouraged by his overprotective Nan, Noah decides to reconnect with his father. During his visit he sees a photograph of his half brother and sister whom he always knew existed but has never met. His assumption that his father will tell his siblings about him is painfully wrong.
Through a volatile and fractured extended family, a desire to learn more about his Samoan heritage is sparked in Noah – a decision that comes with huge consequences.
The debut work of Victor Rodger and winner of four Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards, Sons and the journey of finding one’s identity continues to hold great relevance, more than 20 years on.
Directed by Sasha Gibb and presented by the talented students of Whitireia’s third year stage and screen programme, Sons is one of the graduation productions and represents a culmination of their training. Having encountered Victor Rodger in their second year, these students eagerly embrace this juxtaposition of Fa’a Samoa and the Palangi world.
BATS Theatre: The Propeller Stage
14 – 18 August
Te Whaea Student Standby $5
Full Price $20 | Concession Price $15
Group 6+ $14 | Child Aged 12 or Under $10
Student Night Wednesday $10
Victor Rodger’s My Name is Gary Cooper follows at BATS from 21-25 August.
Catch both of these Whitireia student graduation pieces for less with the Victor Rodger Season Pass. Buy yours now for only $30 full and $26 concession.
The Propeller Stage is fully wheelchair accessible; please contact the BATS Box Office by 4.30pm on the show day if you have accessibility requirements so that the appropriate arrangements can be made. Read more about accessibility at BATS.
Noah Macfarlane: Mani McIntyre
Manu’a Ualesi: Dylan Vailima Fa’atui
Sandra Ualesi: Elizabeth Harris
Lua Ualesi: Luke Burke
Alex: Aja Thompson
Grace Marshall: Lucia Blas Tabeira
Nan: PresleyJett Novak
Sas: Ngareta Samuel-Marshall
Director: Sasha Gibb
Cultural Tutor and Dramaturg: Taofi Mose-Tuiloma
Producer/Production Manager: Neal Barber
Mentor Director: Nina Nawalowalo
Stagecraft Tutor: Tom McCrory
Singing Support: Mapihi Kelland
Lighting Design: Neal Barber
Stage Manager: Devon Hancock
Set Construction: Blair Ryan
Technical Operator: Aisha Atherton
Lighting Technicians: Tanē Hipango, Josh Wood
Publicity Co-Ordinator: Eimii Boswell
Poster Design: Jo Priest
Flier Design: Eli Joseph
1hr 50mins (no interval)
Impactful insights into humanity and hypocrisy
Review by John Smythe 15th Aug 2018
Twenty years on from Taki Rua’s premiere of the revised version of Sons,* Victor Rodger’s semi-autobiographical first play has lost none of its power. Indeed, from a palagi perspective, our greater awareness of Pasifika cultures arguably makes it a better theatrical experience now. Directed by Sasha Gibb, this young cast – soon to graduate from Te Auaha Institute of Creativity – do it proud.
The titular sons – Noah Macfarlane (Mani McIntyre) and Lua Ualesi (Luke Burke) – both in their early 20s, have never met, despite having the same father: Manu’a Ualesi (Dylan Vailima Fa’atui). Both their mothers – Grace Marshall, nee Macfarlane (Lucia Blas Tabeira), who became pregnant with Noah at age 15, and Sandra Ualesi (Elizabeth Harris) – are palagi, although Sandra has adopted the Samoan culture.
All live in the same large town but Grace and Noah have had no contact with Manu’a for the last ten years; Grace is now married and their lives are totally separate. But now Noah has learned his father is dying and wants to visit him. His Nan (Presley Jett Novak), Grace’s mother, cannot understand his need, given “what that man did” to his mother. On the other side of town Sandra is also implacably opposed – and it quickly becomes apparent her children by Manu’a have no idea that Noah exists. (Lua’s sister is overseas so it’s only the sons who are in danger of meeting.)
Meanwhile Noah has been in a relationship with an artist, Alex (Aja Thompson) for 158 days and car-salesman Lua has a fraught relationship with girlfriend Sas (Ngareta Samuel-Marshall), a jazz singer. As the action plays out, a ‘like father like sons’ syndrome begins to afflict these very well wrought relationships.
The simple black box staging, which places Manu’a on a mat-clad rostrum upstage centre, allows the multi-scened story to unfold seamlessly so we are constantly engaged by the slow-reveal of key dramatic elements. Gibb employs an intriguing convention whereby characters tend to face front when they are talking past each other so that their face-to-face moments have greater impact.
Each actor authentically inhabits their role, ensuring we empathise with their character even when their behaviour deteriorates. Fortunately those playing characters much older than themselves don’t resort to phoney tropes, but bring their fundamentally human thoughts and feelings into strong focus – as do all the actors.
Sublime singing, both solo and ensemble, punctuates the scenes and permeates the play to strongly enhance our sense of the era and the conflicting cultural imperatives.
This assured production ensures the full impact of Rodger’s insights into to humanity and his critique of hypocrisy come through as Sons builds to a powerful conclusion. It’s highly recommended – and bodes well for the second play in this Victor Roger Season next week: My Name is Gary Cooper. (Find Season Pass details on the production page.)
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*The original version of Sons, in which the central character was named Tama, was accepted into the 1994 Australasian Playwrights’ Workshop and subsequently premiered at The Court Theatre, Christchurch in 1995.
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