Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland

16/10/2014 - 25/10/2014

Production Details


Starring Beulah Koale, Rima Te Wiata and Alison Bruce 

Rising young television and film actor Beulah Koale stars in Auckland Theatre Company’s production of award-winning playwright Victor Rodger’s entertaining and emotionally gripping play Sons.  

Sons opens at Mangere Arts Centre from Friday 16 October for a strictly limited season.

Beulah Koale has recently come to attention for his role in the New Zealand film The Last Saint and has also featured on Shortland Street and in the 2013 film Fantail. In Sons he stars as afakasi (half-caste) television presenter Noah. The play also features well-known actors Rima Te Wiata and Alison Bruce.

Directed by David Fane, Sons is an entertaining, but emotionally gripping story about family, truth and acceptance. The story follows Noah – a successful young television music host – who visits his dying father after a 10-year silence and embarks on a journey into his unexplored Samoan heritage with explosive consequences.

First workshopped and staged 20 years ago, Sons was Rodger’s first play and is semi-autobiographical. Since then he has written numerous plays and his work is known for dealing with race, racism and identity. Most recently his play Black Faggot, featuring Koale, was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Rodger said he was looking forward to the new production of Sons.

“When it was first staged we really had to scrape around to find Samoan actors to cast, and now we’re spoilt for choice.”

He’s excited about remounting the play in 2014. “I did re-read the script and looked at what needed updating, but emotionally things are still true today.

“This play was my first introduction to actors,” he adds. “And now in this new production it’s exciting that it still has connections to people who were first involved – Dave Fane was part of the first workshop, Alison Bruce was there to see it in its first outing and Rima is playing the role her mother Beryl played.”

The cast for Sons also includes Joanna Mika-Toloa, Lauren Gibson and Bronwyn Bradley.

Sons is at Mangere Arts Centre from 16-25 October.
For details visit 

Noah – Beulah Koale
Lua – Troy Tu'ua
Nan – Rima Te Wiata
Manu'a – Max Palamo
Sas – Joanna Mika-Toloa
Grace – Alison Bruce
Alex – Lauren Gibson
Sandra – Bronwyn Bradley

Playwright – Victor Rodger
Direction – David Fane
Set Design – John Parker
Costume Design – Charlie Baptist
Lighting Design – Rachel Marlow
Sound Design – Isaac Nonu

Sins of the parents dominate family drama with laughs thrown in

Review by Janet McAllister 20th Oct 2014

This cross-cultural family soap opera is a revival of celebrated playwright Victor Rodger’s 1995 play about respect and broken promises, written when he was in his mid-twenties. 

And it is palpably a young man’s play, showing anger about how the sins of parents are laid upon their children. Younger characters may ask why the older generations have stuffed things up, and why have they not yet stopped meddling? [More]  


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Poignant and heartfelt emotional maelstrom

Review by Dione Joseph 19th Oct 2014

Twenty years ago Victor Rodger wrote SONS. I wasn’t there to see it but neither were the vast majority of the punters who packed Mangere Arts Centre last night. There were a few heroes who could stand up and say proudly that they had been there (respect) but for most of us this was our first introduction to the emotional maelstrom that is SONS.

Noah (Beulah Koale) is a successful 24 year old television presenter brought up by his mum Grace (Alison Bruce) and his overprotective Nan (Rima Te Wiata). He’s half-caste. Afakasi. But he doesn’t know much about his Samoan side until one of his aunties tell him that his father (yep, the one who walked out on his mum and left her to bring him up on her own) is very sick.

When Noah decides to visit this phantom of his past he’s confronted with an array of truths: that Manu’a (Max Palamo) not only abandoned his mother but chose to marry another palangi, Sandra (Bronwyn Bradley) and have two kids with her as well. A happy law abiding church going Samoan family. Except there’s no place for Noah in the family portrait. 

SONS might have shaken the theatrical landscape when it first premiered: a distinctively Pasifika story that refused to corroborate the use of Polynesian voices and bodies as the traditional ‘blackground’ against which much of the work at the time was made. But unlike many other works, SONS is not a product of its time. The story is as powerful and magnetic as it would have been twenty years ago – and possibly even more so. 

Rodger’s writing is brilliant. His characters, particularly his protagonist Noah, are utterly mesmerising. The happy-go-lucky innocent boy who just wants to find his dad ends up putting the world into perspective as he discovers he just wants to have the conversation – about what it means not just to be Samoan, not just to be Afakasi, but it really what it means to be ‘Noah’ growing up in this crazy world where truths are hidden and time is a luxury that is afforded to only a few.

The strength of SONS rests almost solely on the ability of Rodger to transport his audiences to a world where these stories aren’t simply told but are alive and it is to Koale’s credit that he brings to life young Noah with all his insecurities, cheeky facades, and ultimately a deeply entrenched anger that explodes any notion that in situations like this the kid will be ‘alright’.

While Koale is the star of the night, both Max Palamo and Rima Te Wiata are equally enigmatic. Initially appearing as the immovable God-fearing leader of the church, there is much more to Manu’a than even young Noah realises. It is thanks both to Rodger’s ability to craft such a human character and Palamo’s to bring him to life that we are able to see the rich multi-faceted persona that is Noah’s father: the one who can groove to James Brown’s sex machine and simply lay a hand on a woman to make them swoon.

Te Wiata, playing the Scottish gran with a temper to match, is a true matriarch and while most of the other female characters are recognisable and mildly likeable, she is exceptional in bringing into Noah’s rather reductive world of black and white a range of insights that force him to gouge much deeper that he initially intended.

The writing and the actors raise the standard of storytelling to a completely new level and director David Fane’s bringing those relationships to the fore with all their nuances and subtleties is laudatory.

However the use of space and the set completely lets this stellar production down. A screen to project close-ups, passing of time and location completely dominates the set with its clunky levels exacerbated by the poor acoustics. With constantly roving stage crew it almost seems like the entire play is a set within a set – except Noah is a presenter on a music channel not a telenovela drama. Furthermore, the lighting seems exaggerated, coming into its own for a few moments at the gallery opening and fundraiser but for much of the duration of this one-act is intrusive and unnecessary.

The risk of attempting to be sophisticated is that technology becomes a gimmicky add-on that in fact detracts from the value of the story. Unfortunately while the fabulous line-up of performers do justice to Rodger’s writing, the space could have been far more creatively imagined – in a way that all members of the audience are able to see and hear the action on stage but without having to operate their necks on a puppet string to see if they are missing any action up on the big screen. 

SONS is an unmissable production. It bares family truths with humour and wit and most importantly a lightness of touch that is both poignant and heartfelt. It is a story that has changed the way Pasifika stories are told: a revolution in theatre history as transformative today as it was 20 years ago.


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