THE FACTORY – A Pacific Musical

Assembly @ Assembly Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland

12/08/2014 - 25/08/2014

Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland

13/08/2011 - 10/09/2011

Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

06/03/2013 - 11/03/2013

Vodafone Events Centre, Manukau, Auckland

04/06/2014 - 06/06/2014

Auckland Arts Festival 2013

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

Production Details

The highly anticipated new show from the Kila Kokonut Krew is finally here.
With a cast of twelve performers and a live orchestra,
The Factory is a unique theatrical experience unlike anything that New Zealand has seen before.
The show explores a territory recognisable to many New Zealanders – the search for love and a better life as an immigrant in a new country. A humble South Auckland factory becomes the backdrop to an unforgettable journey of sacrifice, love and laughter.  
The original score is accompanied by moving song and dance sequences, brought to life by an array of colourful characters.
Written, directed and produced by
Kila Kokonut Krew with funding from Creative New Zealand and support from Auckland Council, The Factory is a theatrical gem not to be missed.

Where:           Mangere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku

When:            13 August – 10 September 2011
                          8pm Tuesday – Saturday (no shows on Sundays and Mondays)
Tickets:         Adults $20 / $30

                          Groups $20 (10 or more); 
                          Children (6 – 18 years) $15
School Matinees
Dates: Thursdays: 18 & 25 August, 1 & 8 September 2011, 12pm
Tickets: $10
Please contact Kila Kokonut Krew for school bookings (must be pre-booked and paid in advance) at

Auckland Arts Festival 2013

Rangatira, Q Theatre, Auckland
Wednesday 6 March – Saturday 9 March, 7.30pm
Sunday 10 March, 5pm
Monday 11 March, 6.30pm
1hr 30min no interval

Post Show Talk: Thursday, 7 March

A Reserve $55 / Friend/Conc/Group $49
B Reserve $45 / Friend/Conc/Group $39
Book at THE EDGE: / 09 357 3355 / 0800 289 842
Group bookings: / 09 357 3354
Book at Q Theatre: / 09 309 9771 


Vodafone Events Centre, Manakau
4-6 June, 7.30pm
Schools Matinee, Fri 6 June, 2pm

Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Asseembly Hall
12 – 25 August, 7.15pm


Cast: Vai Autagavaia, Tavai Faasavalu, Paul Fagamalo, Sela Faletolu, Ross Girven, Milly Grant-Koria, Edward Laurenson, Lindah Lepou, Joanna Mika, Taofia Pelesasa, Sally Sakalia, Taupunakohe Tocker, Aleni Tufuga, Troy Tuua

Line Producer: Jonathan Alver

Set Design: Sean Coyle

Produced and presented by Auckland Arts Festival
With support from Creative New Zealand and ASB Community Trust 


1hr 30min, no interval

Pacific voices asserted

Review by Dione Joseph 16th Aug 2014

The Factory is worthy of four stars. Not five but four unequivocal fulsome stars that applaud this production for its artistic merit and the fact that it is openly responding to a shameful chapter in New Zealand’s history: when Polynesian immigrant workers were beguiled with the notion that the journey to the promised land of NZ would bring them “milk, honey and money”. 

That journey, made by co-founder Vela Manusaute’s father, inspired the Kila Kokonut Krew to bring the story of that journey and its consequences to life. And they have done so with a class unto themselves.

Losa and her father arrive in New Zealand on a three month visa and thanks to the help of Miselei (a fa’afafine with style and connections) are able to get work in a local South Auckland textile factory. The narrative is predictable.

There are The Factory workers, most of whom are disappointed with the lies and the life that has been carved out for them but unwilling to jeopardizs their jobs by challenging the status quo. The one exception has notably been named Moses. The owner of The Factory is a smug cruel man whose only son Edward is attracted to Losa, despite his fathers repeated reminders of the supposed differences in their upbringing and that it’s important to ‘know your place’ no matter which side you were raised. 

The formulaic American musical genre is evident and some scenes are simply too convenient. Often the underlying drama of the narrative is smothered beneath an avalanche of funky tunes and slick choreography (of which both are excellent) yet not quite in harmony with the depth and investment that the stories deserve. 

The score is indeed excellent with songs both in Samoan and in English and they vary from huge group numbers on The Factory floor or in the dance hall, to tender duets between father and daughter or the two young lovers. The most powerful and moving sequences are undoubtedly the larger ensemble pieces which take the production’s musical score to a whole new level. 

The Factory is not about showcasing ‘authentic’ or even ‘native’ Samoan voices and culture on stage. This is not a nostalgic past to be gawked at by international audiences – and occasionally it runs the risk of lending itself to that form. Yes, it is a feel-good musical but it is about a living culture, vibrant and alive and very much present in the now as they tell a story that many of their parents may have experienced.

The main issue with the show is that while it does use the musical genre to create its own highly specific and unique storytelling form, the fact is it still butts into the West End version of an exportable theatrical commodity, running the risk of establishing self-imposed boundaries that could curtail the creativity and expression of this talented troupe.  

However, the fact is that South Auckland company Kila Kokonut Krew are taking Samoan stories to the main stage, not just in Aotearoa NZ but right here in Edinburgh. And that is a reflection not just of the constantly changing landscape of theatre but indeed of power, politics and Pacific voices reasserting the right to tell stories in their own words on their own terms.

And that deserves an ovation. 



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A sweet and rhythmic ride with pure Samoan soul

Review by Tamati Patuwai 08th Mar 2013

Kila Kokonut Krew (KKK), multi media explosion and creative community platform, is up to all good again with the 2013 Auckland Festival season of The Factory.

The Factory is a musical lament acknowledging KKK leaders Vela Manusaute’s own father’s journey from Samoa to Niu Sila. In typical KKK style however, this lament is charismatically interwoven with incredible feats of satire, Pacific smiles and majestic musical prowess.

Set in the 1970s in our very own Niu Sila, we follow the story of Losa (Milly Grant-Koria) and her papa Kavana (Aleni Tufuga) as they attempt to make their way in a new land far from their Samoan home.

Grant-Koria glows with all the Diva powers one Pacific princess can possibly summon. Her vocal abilities soar to the heavens opening all ancestral and angelic portals for the audience to enjoy. At 16 years old who knows what is possible for this blossoming Samoan treasure?  

The factory owner Mr Wilkinson (Ross Girven) is as jarring and repugnant as all villains should be. Though much of the character must be attributed to some very observant and risque writing, Girven revels in every vociferous and pigheaded statement that spills from the bigoted Employer’s sweaty skull. The irony that happens at the end is on one hand triumphant and on the other tragic; villainy in all of its dramatic complexity. Cher!

The character Mose, in my view, is one of the more authentic voices coming through the piece as a whole. Mose’s almost subconscious political tirades surge back and forth on stage yet are so well managed directorially with song and, again, smiles that the audience can really digest this sense of social distress and cultural urgency.

In all world-class musicals, of which this is one by the way, the ensemble is the foundational setting. In The Factory we enjoy an entire chorus who plays with committed Pacific discipline and generosity. Their timing is just so slick and tight, and when they hit all of the pitch perfect harmonies it is totally breathtaking. 

With this I must add that, given the obvious skill of this chorus, I would have loved to have seen more musical dance moments. The movement that is there is a true delight but I am merely suggesting that when there are more seasons for The Factory (no doubt) there is more space and audience demand for more dance.

Now to the music.

I have known Manusaute for many years and I know that his own musical compositions were not exactly a creative focus for him. So not aware of the collaborators in this ‘musical’ venture I was naturally anxious about how this would play out. My anxieties grew all the way to the theatre seat until I read the program and discovered that Poulima Salima and Tama Waipara are the musical generators in The Factory. Relief instantly swept through my spirit, I became totally present and was ready for a soulful and melodic ride. 

The music is right on point with so many of the world’s most compelling, enigmatic musical scores. Moments just as silky as Little Shop of Horrors and Grease bop on through, followed trippingly with some of the most innovative and gracious Contemporary Pacific pele that I have ever heard. Though many of the songs are absolute hits, ‘Samoana’ in my view is the flagship of the whole piece.

I do feel at times that the songs are potentially clipped short for time constraints. My selfishly musical perspective urges me to state that sometimes when you open a song up, you just need to let it play all the way through. I see two possible moments, again, for more in the ‘musical’ regard. 

All up, The Factory is such a sweet and rhythmic ride, with pure Samoan soul and theatricality that my heart absolutely yearns for it to tour globally so that the world gets a good glimpse of who we are in little ol’ Niu Sila. Though significant themes are present throughout, The Factory is meant to be a joy, a delight for all audiences to enjoy and to learn from, so structurally KKK keeps things succinct and buoyant here (“come on it’s a musical”). 

My congratulations to Vela and Ana for your vision and desire to weave such beautifully important Aotearoa Pacific tapestries.

“You are the bow of the waka”
Kila Kokonut Krew rise!

For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


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Tale of race, class a triumph

Review by James Wenley 08th Mar 2013

The chance taken on Kila Kokonut’s Krew The Factory– “New Zealand’s first Pacific Musical” – should prove the biggest statement of this year’s Auckland Arts Festival. Dedicated to the parents and grandparents of the creatives and cast who moved to New Zealand from the islands, The Factory began as a modest workshop production in 2010. A 4 week sell-out season of the Musical at Mangere Arts Centre was one of the theatrical highlights of 2011.

While the joyous heart remains, The Factory has been completely transformed into a polished, slick, and assured musical theatre offering. The Factory is now West Side Story meets Saturday Night Fever with a Pasifika flavour. [More]


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Tale of race, class a triumph

Review by Janet McAllister 08th Mar 2013

Last night was a triumph for the Kila Kokonut Krew, their creative supporters and their Factory, overhauled since its first Mangere outing in 2011.

Set in 1970s New Zealand, this pitch-perfect musical tells the story of Losa (Milly Grant-Koria) and her father Kavana (Aleni Tufuga) as they work to support their family back home, aiming to be “the cream of the chocolate”. But as factory owner Mr Wilkinson (Ross Girven) is villainous and money-grubbing, they don’t find it easy to earn the promised milk and honey, even though Mr Wilkinson’s son (Edward Laurenson) seems to be on their side.

This Pacific Les Mis tale of race and class is hugely leavened by romance, humour and funky 70s style (thanks to costume designer Seraphina Tausilia and stylist Louina Fifita). [More


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Review by Simon Wilson 08th Mar 2013

Two years ago at the Mangere Arts Centre I saw a pretty fine production of a new musical. The Factory mixed a story of immigrant Samoan factory workers with a loud and proud bunch of songs, and the result was highly entertaining and more than a touch provocative. It was a good night out.

That show has now been reworked, with the core creative team of director Anapela Polataivao and writer/director Vela Manusaute now joined by a new musical director, Tama Waipara, and a new production crew. The result is magnificent.

I’ll go further. I’d guess The Factory will become a new pillar of New Zealand theatre: a classic that is performed frequently and inspires a generation of actors, singers, writers – and schoolkids. [More


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Emotional Journey hits high notes

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 15th Aug 2011

It was a big night in South Auckland – while David Tua was seeking redemption in his battle with Monte Barrett, the Kila Kokonut Krew delivered a knockout blow with the opening of a musical celebrating the joys and disappointments of the Pacific Island immigrant experience.

Creating an original musical from scratch is an ambitious undertaking, and The Factory demonstrates that musical theatre is the ideal form for expressing the heightened emotions and indomitable optimism of the immigrant story. [More]  
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


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The Great Niu Sila Musical ?

Review by Nik Smythe 15th Aug 2011

Some time ago an industry friend pointed out to me that the definitive Great Kiwi Musical was yet to be written (despite numerous attempts) and that whoever manages it will have a goldmine on their hands. Since then I’ve kept my eye out for it. 

Of course it largely depends on what the agreed criteria to earn such a title might be, but when the Kila Kokonut Krew take the stage for the world premiere of The Factory they hit the ground running with energy and vigour. 

Joanna Mika plays Losi (named Susana in the programme), a creative young Samoan woman arriving in New Zealand with her loving but conservative father (Aleni Tufuga), to take a job in a clothing factory and send money to their family back home. There she meets the floor manager, forward-thinking Lillian (Nastassia Wolfgramm), daughter of capitalist sell-out factory boss (Asalemo Tofete), known only as ‘Boss’ to the crew and ‘Dad’ to Lilly. 

This premise sets the scene for an entertaining and confronting full-scale musical, replete with humour and interwoven subplots that combine to make for an all-round satisfying experience. Attractive and engaging as they are, the lead roles are played essentially straight, representing the every-people of their world. Lilly’s secret sweetheart Tim (Tom Natoealofa) is less militant than Fasitua Amosa’s self-assertive Mose and the others, asserting to their derision that they are now equal to palagi in modern New Zealand so there’s no more need to fight. 

Other supporting cast offer comparatively larger-than life depictions; none larger than Tufuga’s Boss, a pompous buffoon of operatic proportions who’s lost his way through cowardice and self-loathing, rather than pure evil greed. Tavai Faasalavu’s Lesi is the wisecracking clown, Michael Koloi’s Soa the brooding muscleman, while machinists Tyra, Lagi and Pa’ia (Taofi Mose Tuiloma, Tupe Lualua and Victoria Schmidt) are typically hardworking responsible Pasifika women not above a work-related gripe or a cheeky joke, but are grateful for their jobs and not about to rock the boat.

Undoubtedly the favourite for many will be Paul Fagamalo’s strutting fa’afafine Misilei, the self-proclaimed ‘Queen of the Factory’ with dreams of Hollywood glamour and enough sass and pride that she won’t take stick from anyone … except the Boss.

The seven-strong musical ensemble soundly underpins the eclectic gamut of musical moods and genres. I confess my presumptions were slightly subverted in that I expected more modern music, namely the definitive Hip-hop stylings for which the younger generations of Pasifika people are best known nowadays (and rightly so), or even some break-dancing. 

Regardless, the lack of these elements in no way detracts from the impressive accomplishment of composer/conductor Poulima Salima and choreographer Siaosi Mulipola. Salima’s accomplished arrangements covers a broad range of musical theatre styles. Full-company numbers such as the inaugural haunting vocal chorus, the central showpiece ‘My Life Started at the Factory’ and Mose’s politically confrontational ‘How Come?!’ have the audience enthralled and energised. 

The struggles and fears of the working class are further expressed in anthemic compositions about ‘Working for the Man’ and the necessity of learning English and disregarding the culture of the world they have come from: “E is for money, N is for money, G is … (etc)”. Supporting and instigating these resigned notions from on high, Boss entreats his daughter to forget the island ways and ‘Climb climb climb Lillian!’, at which she is torn between her own ambition and her desire to maintain and celebrate the culture of their people. 

The cast performs both songs and dialogue entirely with microphones. A few technical problems (mainly just a lack of crispness and some crackle) were unfortunate at the premiere but minor enough to be almost not worth mentioning, except that sharpening the vocal clarity can only improve the work, if only by eliminating the distraction. 

The large, simplistic scaffolding-based set designed by Sean Coyle (also lighting) has more of a construction site look than a clothing factory, with a few long rolls of fabric draped about to suggest walls, and the merchandise. Sewing machines and other equipment are all mimed, making it easier to transpose the specific institution to any number of factory workplaces. 

The KKK’s stated mandate is to “create theatre with a strong political and social focus that the rest of the world could not ignore.” The Factory explores prominent PI concerns of family, immigration and cultural identity, in broad strokes that maximise recognition of the issues while still managing to elicit sympathy on a human level. The depth achieved in this way is considerable, especially with a script that is in some ways less than realistic, such as Boss’s arrogant refusal to appropriately deal with pressing workplace safety issues without any concern for the penalties awarded for such gross negligence.  

Then there’s Lilly’s insistence that her father sack a respected worker whom she believes has betrayed her, with no explanation or similar concern for the legal repercussions of unlawful dismissal. And the fact that when the worst imaginable tragedy does occur, Mr. Boss isn’t forcibly closed down, let alone fined or imprisoned for negligence amounting to manslaughter. These issues would be easier to believe if it was set in the seventies, in the generation of playwright/co-director (with Anapela Polataivino) Vela Manusaute’s own immigrant parents, who evidently provided inspiration for the ambitious work. 

In the end, whether The Factory is The Great Kiwi Musical or not, it is nonetheless a solid blend of drama, comedy, music and dance that ultimately explodes with literal electricity. You’ll know what I mean when you go.  
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


Grant Buist August 16th, 2011

 I'm proud to have writen the Daftest Kiwi Musical. I'm leaving the Great Kiwi Musical for someone who knows more than four chords.

nik smythe August 15th, 2011

I neglected to mention that the curtain call was received with a wholehearted minute-long standing ovation.

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