Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland

20/08/2014 - 23/08/2014

Production Details


Summer, 1975. Rotorua, New Zealand … Jimi Hendrix, motorbikes, ika mata and dawn raids… it’s the scene of Tawata Productions’ new play Sunset Road.

Tawata Productions presents Miria George’s Sunset Road at Q Theatre in Auckland from August 20-23.

Set in Rotorua and the Cook Islands, Sunset Road is a dramatic coming-of-age story. It’s two days before twins Luka and Lucia finally cross in to adulthood.  Free, they roam the steam filled streets of Rotorua on Luka’s trusty Bonneville and dream of taking on the world.

Luka desperate to escape, Lucia to become Miss Geyserland.

The twins work with their devout father at the local sawmill, uninspiring to them, for him where he has been since he first brought his family to this dry and broken land. A near death experience drags father back to memories of Atiu, Cook Islands and the secrets and mistakes of his past, shaking the family’s foundations and ultimate love of each other.

Sunset Road features Cook Island actors Taungaroa Emile (Tu, Once on Chunuk Bair) and Nathan Mudge (Lord of the Flies), with Aroha White (Tu) and premiered in Wellington in 2012 as the much-anticipated new stage play from controversial New Zealand born Cook Islands playwright Miria George.

Miria’s plays, including the provocative and what remains, boutique musical He Reo Aroha (co-written with Jamie McCaskill), and the gritty Urban Hymns, have been performed in international festivals around the world including the United Kingdom, Hawai’i, Australia and Canada to much acclaim.

Schooled in New Zealand, the Cook Islands and Costa Rica, Miria is the daughter of renowned Cook Islands visual artist Ian George. Sunset Road is her first play focusing on her Cook Islands whakapapa.

“Heartfealt and heart-wrenching… the emotions are raw and exposed” – Dominion Post

“…insightful, delightful and powerful drama that captures an essence of displacement” – Theatreview  

Q Loft, Queens St, Auckland
Wednesday Aug 20 to Saturday Aug 23 2014
Ticket price: $20-$30 (service fees apply)
Book by phoning (09) 309 9771 

Ina:  TAUNGAROA EMILE  (Rarotonga / Ngati Kahungunu) 
Luka:  NATHAN MUDGE  (Rarotonga) 
Lucia:  AROHA WHITE  (Nga Puhi)

Writer  Director:  MIRIA GEORGE  (Atiu / Rarotonga / Te Arawa) 
Choreographer:  TE HAU WINITANA:  (Atiu / Te Atiawa / Ngati Ruapani) 
Translator:  TUPU ARAITI:  (Atiu / Rarotonga) Set Design:  JAIMEE WARDA & WAI MIHINUI
Light Design:  ULLI LE FORT
Sound Design:  KARNAN SABA
Kana, Stool, Bench Design:  TONY DE GOLDI
Technical Operation:  ULLI LE FORT

Promotional Stills:  ANETA RUTH, DAFNE ANDRIA
Marketing Manager:  SALLY WOODFIELD, SWPR
Marketing Assistant:  MACKENZIE PICKERT, SWPR
Box Office Manager:  JACKSON COE
Production Manager / Stage Manager:  AHI KARUNAHARAN
Production Assistant:  MANUEL SOLOMON
Print Design:  ROSE MILLER
Major Partners:  Wellington City Council / Creative New Zealand

Easy ride along Sunset Road

Review by Sharu Delilkan 21st Aug 2014

Only after watching the show did I discover that Sunset Road is Miria George’s first play focussing on her Cook Islands whakapapa and gave me more insight into why the show was set in the 1970s, charting her grandparents’ story.

A multitude of themes resonate within Sunset Road, the same way that the base drum does in the opening scene of the piece. [More


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Clarity, mystery and presence

Review by Vanessa Byrnes 21st Aug 2014

It’s the opening night of a new New Zealand play* and my companion and I enter with great expectations. This is a beautifully produced work with an expert team from Tawata Productions behind it. Miria George’s new play promises much in its anticipation, but for my money doesn’t really deliver the punch it seeks.   

A simple but strong set – beautifully designed and lit – provides the platform for this story about the revelation of a long-held family secret and its repercussions.

The play doesn’t initially give much away. Set in Rotorua in 1975, it relies on recounted storytelling and direct interaction to access the three characters’ lives. Twins Luka (Nathan Mudge) and Lucia (Aroha White) are about to turn 21, and they are itching to get away from the confines of family and small-town life in Rotorua.

Their father Ina (Taungaroa Emile) carries a clandestine grace as he goes about his work as foreman at the local Mill. A secret has eaten him up and this will soon change the course of the twins’ lives. All three actors bring clarity, mystery and presence to their performances: an intriguing blend and the air hangs thick with anticipation.

I like the eclectic mix of elements in the characters’ lives that make this story so specific to this time and place: a beauty pageant, vintage motorcycles, husking a coconut; sand threading out of a book as if by magic … Things you couldn’t predict would reside next to each other.

Keys, sand, and a pitched roof all become metaphors for something bigger. Keys are there to lock them up or set them free; sand represents the homeland. All these pieces are explored beautifully in their detail and George’s writing bring them into relief. 

The play, however, relies heavily on narrative exposition or the anticipation of what comes next to ignite the drama fuse. Drum beats – the rhythm of the heart (healthy or broken) – signal tension. “Where are we headed? Where’s this story going?” I find myself wondering.

When the revelation comes, it’s surprising but lacks the impact that I expect it needs to have, to make sense of everything to that point. I want the emotional sucker-punch but don’t quite get it. 

There’s an Ibsenesque quality to George’s writing, and this piece reminds me of the intense family dynamic driving plays such as the extraordinary Ghosts. To my mind, it even shadows Ibsen’s observation: “Look into any man’s heart you please, and you will always find, in every one, at least one black spot which he has to keep concealed.” Secrets are the stuff of intense family drama.

I just find myself wanting more. We edge towards something explosive, but instead come away with fallout that can be tolerated. Lives aren’t torn apart in the way that Ibsen might propose, but rather return to a new definition of normality. An exceptional team of players make this drama. I just need a bit more, and perhaps that will come with further development.

*An earlier version of SUNSET ROAD was produced in 2012 – read review.


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