Mayfair Theatre, 100 King Edward Street, Kensington, Dunedin

26/03/2019 - 28/03/2019

Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

08/05/2018 - 02/06/2018

Centrepoint, Palmerston North

07/04/2018 - 15/04/2018

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

09/09/2020 - 13/09/2020

MTG Century Theatre, 1 Tennyson St, Napier

19/10/2018 - 19/10/2018


Hawkes Bay Arts Festival 2018

Dunedin Fringe 2019

Production Details

Chickens Take Over Centrepoint Theatre!

2017 Adam Best Play award winner Still Life with Chickens comes to Centrepoint Theatre from Auckland Theatre Company for 10 shows in April.

Written by David F. Mamea, Still Life with Chickens is an intimate, funny play about friendship, loss, and the things that make life worth living. The play will be a true delight for Manawatu audiences.

Starring Goretti Chadwick (Pani & Pani, Sione’s Wedding) and a rogue chicken (Puppeteer, Haanz Fa’avae-Jackson), Still Life with Chickens is directed by renowned actor Fasitua Amosa (Shortland Street, Jono and Ben), who earlier this year, directed the critically acclaimed show The Mountaintop at the Basement Theatre.

This heart-warming comedy unfolds when Mama discovers a mischievous chicken invading her flourishing veggie-garden – her first instinct is to reach for the spade, but what starts as a skirmish over the silver beet develops into an unlikely friendship, as she opens up to the chicken about her life struggles and family troubles.

“Mama is based on the writer’s mother, yet she is relatable to so many Pacific mamas we know and love. A passionate strong Samoan matriarch bringing up her family in a modern world, she would think nothing of reaching for the spade if a chicken dared to dig up her veggie garden,” Chadwick says.

The show is set to tour to Centrepoint Theatre, Palmerston North in April following the Auckland Arts Festival season.

“This show is a real treat for us,” says Centrepoint Theatre’s General Manager, Kate Louise Elliott. “Still Life with Chickensis a powerful, insightful and hilarious exploration of life’s most meaningful aspects, and will leave a lasting impression.”

Still Life With Chickens
Centrepoint Theatre, 280 Church Street, Palmerston North
7 April to 15 April 2018
Tuesday & Wednesday:  6.30pm
Thursday – Saturday:  7.30pm
Sunday: 4pm
Post-Show Q+A is Wednesday 11 April.
Tickets Adults ($45), seniors ($37),
students and Community Services Card holders ($25),
dinner & show ($75).
Bookings 06-354-5740 or  

Circa Two
8 May – 2 June 2018
($30 Preview – 8 May)
Tues – Sat 7.30pm, Sun 4.30pm

Hawkes Bay Arts Festival 2018

MTG Century Theatre, Napier
Friday 19 October 2018
Adult :  $45
Concession:  $40

Presented by PANNZ, an Auckland Theatre Company production supported by Creative New Zealand.

For 10+ years of age.

Dunedin Fringe 2019

Mayfair Theatre, 100 King Edward St, Kensington, Dunedin
TUE 26 – THU 28 March 2019
$15.00 – $20.00
*Fees may apply

ASB Waterfront Theatre
Wednesday 9 – Sunday 13 September 2020
Times alternating with Black Lover
Details & Booking

Dentons Kensington Swan presents Back on the Boards, celebrating the return of live theatre.

Auckland Theatre Company’s return to ASB Waterfront Theatre stage will feature a remount of the beloved and award winning Still Life With Chickens by D.F. Mamea, a show that steals hearts wherever it is performed around the world.  The highly acclaimed play Black Lover by Stanley Makuwe, the premiere season of which sold out during the 2020 Auckland Arts Festival but was cut short by the global pandemic, will also be remounted. Back on the Boards also features a brand new work 48 Nights on Hope Street, a direct and exciting response to this time from a diverse company of young writers, actors and musicians.

Three brilliant New Zealand works celebrate good people, profound relationships and what it means to be human. Come and see one, two or all three shows to once again enjoy a stellar night out at the theatre.

Theatre , Puppetry , Family ,

1 hr

A simple slice-of-life story told well

Review by Heidi North 12th Sep 2020

Still Life with Chickens is one of a trio of plays staged by Auckland Theatre Company in their post-lockdown ‘Back on the Boards’ series. It is heartening to see the ASB Waterfront theatre ‘packed’ – with appropriate social distancing in place.

Brought to life by a talented team, Still life with Chickens returns to Auckland after seasons nationwide in 2018, as well as playing in Sydney and Shanghai.

It begins with Mama (Goretti Chadwick) burying her cat and confidant, Blackie the second. Mama is a Samoan grandmother who spends her days proudly tending her garden, less proudly tending her husband, and feeling the keen loneliness of someone who’s been left behind in life.

Enter Moa the chicken. After a rough beginning when Moa pecks holes in Mama’s prized plants, the pair strike up a friendship and Mama tells the chicken, and us, her story.

Goretti Chadwick embodies Mama with grace. A consummate performer, her physicality, energy and depth as Mama have us hooked from the first moment. Equally, puppeteer Haanz Fa’avae-Jackson does a gorgeous job of bringing Moa to life with all the quirks that anyone who has had pet chickens will know and love. The two work like clockwork together.

Under Fasitua Amosa’s direction, the action is well-paced, nuanced and light. D.F Mamea’s award-winning script is intimate, sad, sweet, funny and carefully crafted. It leaves us wanting more with the most heart-warming ending.

Still Life with Chickens is a simple slice-of-life story told well. And in these turbulent Covid times, here is nothing more satisfying than experiencing the unique joy of a story that couldn’t be told in any other way than on the stage.

Highly recommended.


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A charming story not afraid to confront difficult themes

Review by Kate Timms-Dean 27th Mar 2019

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to Mama’s garden. And we are so lucky she did!

Still Life with Chickens is a delightful story that explores the themes of aging, loneliness and the changing relationships within a family through the eyes and experiences of Mama (Goretti Chadwick). When Moa the chicken (puppeteer Haanz Fa’avae-Jackson) invades her garden, Mama doesn’t recognise her for the friend she will become. At first the relationship seems destined for failure, but, as time wears on, the little chicken becomes her confidante.

Mama’s conversations with Moa serve to unveil the life that she has led; her memories and experiences are slowly revealed as, layer by layer, the blinds are pulled back to show us who she is and how she lives. Mama’s love for her family is clear to see, but her loneliness and feelings of abandonment are also palpable as she feels her family slipping away from her.

This emotional story of life and aging is all the more impactful given the strength of the delivery by both Chadwick and Fa’avae-Jackson. Chadwick conveys the warmth and humour of Mama’s character, whilst also expressing the waves of emotion that she experiences. And the audience is with her – we all feel her love, her fear, her sadness.

Meanwhile, Fa’avae-Jackson expresses the spirit of the chicken through his puppetry and interpretation of Moa as a character. The movement, the voice and the personality of the chicken are superbly captured and conveyed to us, the audience. She is so like my own chickens, although if mine could dance like Moa, I would be a YouTube sensation!

Slick lighting and production adds depth to the delivery, providing a simple but extremely effective backdrop against which the story and the characters unfold.

Still Life with Chickens is a charming story and one that is not afraid to confront difficult themes, including the challenge of aging in a changing world, and the way that people can find love and companionship when they need it most and from the most unexpected of quarters.  


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Humanistic comedy gentle, touching

Review by Gemma Carroll 20th Oct 2018

Playwright David Mamea won the Adam NZ Play Award and Playmarket Best Play in 2017 for this simple, comedic piece.

It has seen many seasons and is always well received by audiences and critics alike. It is a well-crafted, humanistic comedy, performed tenderly by actor Goretti Chadwick.

We all recognise this character, the lonely old woman who potters about in her garden and comes knocking on her neighbours’ doors, with the strangest of queries. We know her and we care about her.  

The picture of a wife and her demanding, distant husband are familiar. The children and grandchildren, who’ve flown the coop, also too familiar, in this day and age. The loss of a child, not dwelt upon, but still felt as a gulf in this woman’s life.

An imperfect human in an imperfect world, with her own prejudices and wounds. We are touched by her loneliness, as many of us know it ourselves. Yet there is never a moment of real sadness as an audience, we are buoyed by the levity, the fast bi-lingual monologues, the comedy timing of Chadwick.  

Then the star of the show appears and we are smitten. A hen-puppet called Moa (Samoan for chicken) borders on upstaging the human actor at times, with it’s life-like movements in the hands of puppeteer Haanz Fa’avae-Jackson and the vocal mimicry has many audience in stitches. 

The unlikely friendship between the two is so sweet, we feel tears of joy by the end and, for some, a little lump in the throat, as the circle of life brings hope into the small back-yard world of Mama’s garden.

This is a gentle, touching work, that doesn’t attempt to challenge us, it is simply there to entertain and the appreciative, large audience were more than satisfied.


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Heart-warming humour and resilience

Review by John Smythe 09th May 2018

Expectations are high for the Wellington season of this Auckland Theatre Company production. Still Life with Chickens won the Adam Award for Best New Zealand Play last year. It premiered in Mangere then moved to the Auckland waterfront in March this year, played Palmerston North in April and now it’s on at Circa Two.

It starts with a burial in the vegie garden: a small body-shaped form that could be … surely not … no, it’s gift-wrapped … What? So begins David Fa’auliuli Mamea’s beautifully crafted bitter-sweet comedy about death, life, loss and love.

There is nothing sentimental about Mama, the Samoan-Kiwi would-be matriarch embodied in a superbly nuanced performance by Goretti Chadwick. Her relationship with her late cat Blackie (the second) was ambivalent. As she hangs out the washing and tends her garden, she suffers the demands of house-bound and painfully dependent Papa (voiced by Ena Petaia), bemoans the absence of their variously disappointing children and grandchildren, and interacts briefly with her Palagi, Indian and Māori neighbours.

She does have one long-standing best friend, Sina, who is unwell and around-whom an extraordinary revenge-based back-story will emerge. But from one day to the next, she’s lonely. She even talks to an aphid, demanding to know who put the holes in her vegie leaves.

Enter the titular Chicken, made by Helen Fuller and brought to delightful life by puppeteer Haanz Fa’avae-Jackson. It’s not a promising start: Mama is formidable with that broom. But a relationship develops and it’s through that – Mama’s conversing with Moa, as she dubs the little chook – that we become privy to the life and times of this particular suburban housewife in a multicultural neighbourhood.

It’s a story with universal and timeless resonance, written by Mamea with a deceptive delicacy that brings strength and weight to the substance it holds, and directed by Fasitua Amosa to capture our hearts with its insights.

The neat made-for-touring set by production designer John Parker, lit by Marcus McShane – a brushwood fence, two garden boxes and a small rotary clothesline – is more picture-postcard than naturalistic (the bright crispy-clean brand-new blue undies in no way evoke the unseen incontinent old man, thankfully). The Pacifica colour palette is echoed in Khalid Parker’s musically lively sound design.

Flawed as she is, Chadwick’s Mama compels our empathy. The humour and resilience embedded in the telling and showing of her story is heart-warming. As for the ending – trust me, you’ll love it.


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A wonderful, rich, tragi-comedy

Review by Tania Kopytko 08th Apr 2018

Still Life with Chickens is wonderful, humorous and heart-warming theatre. It is both a universal and specific story, telling the story of a Samoan Grandmother and her trials with life, which could be the trials of any older suburban woman or couple in the world, where cultures mix and far-scattered children and grandchildren lead work-focused lives.

We would expect a good play, because Still Life with Chickens won writer David Fa’auliuli Mamea the 2017 Playmarket Adam Award for the best NZ play and also the award for best play by a Pasifika Writer. It was commissioned by the Auckland Theatre Company and was performed in the 2018 Auckland Festival.

It is beautifully written as it leaps from the fine detail of daily life to full life philosophy, and from the humorous to the tragic. Director Fasitua Amosa brings it all to life with assurance. The set design (John Parker) is simple. The one hour performance is quick-paced.

From her quiet suburban garden, Mama, played superbly by the very experienced Goretti Chadwick, contemplates her life on burying her naughty cat ‘Blackie’. She is interrupted every now and then by her demanding and somewhat dependent husband – he, who cannot even heat up things in the microwave. She laments the loss of her 15-year cat companion, the distance from her children and grandchildren and the uselessness of her husband; all balanced with wonderful humour.

She contemplates her loneliness in a world that is different from what she imagined it would be. She is not perfect, but she is typical of us all. She loves her family, but if they loved her they should be visiting her, talking longer on the phone, calling regularly, telling her they love her and she should have her grandchildren around her.  How often this rings true for parents or grandparents anywhere. It is so resonant for migrant families who struggle across cultures and tussle with traditional versus modern attitudes.

For peace and solace Mama lovingly tends her little garden, talking to her plant-friends the taro, lettuce and pumpkin, all growing to feed the family and create those special family dishes. Her aloneness is more poignant as the husband never appears. He is just a distant annoying voice, wanting things done. And so, as a good wife and mother, she has tended to him and the family, year in year out, for the 60 years of their marriage.

Then life changes for Mama when a chicken enters her garden and life. What a chicken! A beautiful feathered, string puppet, designed by Helen Fuller and manipulated superbly by Haanz Fa’avae-Jackson, an experienced young actor with amazing empathetic chicken-language skills. She names the chicken Moa – Samoan for chicken! Setting off to find out who the chicken might belong to, and later where it might have disappeared to, we hear her talk to her various neighbours, the Palagi woman next door, the curry-making Indians, the hangi-making Māorifamily.

In her conversation we sense the honest inter-cultural mistrust and reticence held by each of them, but presented in good humour. As the narrative progresses events involving her husband, best friend and Moa cause her aloneness to grow. Her honest and deep conversation with God reveals more about her husband’s past doings and how she responded … (spoilers averted). While God is a punisher he is also a forgiver and Mama – who is courageous, strong, loving and forgiving – hopes he will also be kind.

The end is happy and moving. Still Life with Chickens is a wonderful, rich, tragi-comedy.  It is beautiful, heart-warming and moving. More than one audience member wipes tears from their eyes at the end, as they all erupt with cheers and applause.

May Still Life with Chickens have a successful season at Centrepoint Theatre, Palmerston North, until 15 April, and then a successful season in Wellington, at Circa Theatre.  Don’t miss this – it’s too good. 


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