Te Pou Theatre, 44a Portage Road, New Lynn, Auckland

18/07/2017 - 21/07/2017

Production Details

Spear headed by award winning writer Suli Moa (2016 Adam Award: Best Pasifika playwright Playmarket NZ & 2013 Creative NZ Pasifika Emerging artist), West Side Tales Youth Theatre Co creates opportunity for youth (16 – 21 yrs old) to express using drama, dance & music through the use of theatre.

Our debut show WITHSTAND, written by Suli Moa (Kingdom of Lote 2011, A Hearts Path 2012, No Man’s Land 2014) brings you a tale of the Masters Family.

Nanny Master’s funeral was the last time the Masters family were together under one roof. After the funeral the family secrets were exposed, words were spoken out of anger which affected the family deeply. This caused sides to be chosen and family members excluded.  

A year has passed since and none of Nanny’s children are in contact with each other, which has affected Nanny’s mokos (Grandchildren). But the mokos have selflessly put their differences aside to support one of their own, 16 year old Misi, who is accused for underage sexual activity without consent. Throughout this three-week trial we have an insight to this nation-wide case, true feelings will be revealed and the bond of cousins will be tested.   

Te Pou Theatre. 44a Portage Rd, New Lynn
18 – 21 July 2017
$10 Adults | $5.00 Child (Under 12) 

Kolo played by Roxanne Emery
Leiti played by DaeDae Tekoronga-Waka 
Tyson played by Dj Fong
Tamati played by John Kukutai
Janet played by Camille Noel-Atkins
Reporter: Mounu Ofa
Reporter 2: Christina Iapo 
Loops played by Aroha kaukau
Paula played by Kasi Valu
Charity played by Tewe
D played by Sol Te-Waiata   

Youth , Theatre ,

Mixed quality and no resolution

Review by Gabriel Faatau'uu Satiu 20th Jul 2017

Arriving to the venue, the staff on site are incredibly nice and I feel a little spoiled, but then find it oddly suspicious. Of the crowd, the staff only approach me advising of the delayed start and I realise that if I wasn’t here to review, then like every other waiting audience member I’d be left in the dark.

The doors open, and I find myself in the second row from the top. On stage are four plinths placed in lounge style and hanging from the ceiling are empty photo frames, reminding me of my island Nana and the countless photographs of my entire family tree on her wall. 

The lights dim and the cast enter carrying four ie lavalavas in pairs. I try to make sense of the connection as they twirl around lifting the ie lavalava, (mostly in sync with each other and their heaving breathing, I might add). They form a coffin with the ie lavalavas as they symbolically create a snippet of their Nana’s funeral. It’s visually beautiful but am slightly disappointed that an old Tongan hymn subtly plays over the sound system. Where is the singing? 

The story continues presumably a year later when 16 year-old Misi Masters is on trial as he has been accused for underage sexual activity without consent. The cousins reunite and, although in a very small space, I have difficulty hearing the lines of certain characters. I try to decide if it’s the distracting sports practice from the rec centre next door or if the actors have no training in voice production. I remind myself that tonight is their second night. The curse is on them and I’m hopeful that it’s not too late to save the show.

The story unfolds as the cast create a paparazzi scene; it’s the first time we are introduced to the use of masks, for the cast to separate themselves from their cousin roles and ‘other’ roles. In this scene, the use of white masks highlight the separation of white media and their stereotyping of a brown convict. Visually it’s beautiful and the distinction of colour separation is clear. However, I can’t help but think the masks look like that used in the movie Saw so when they’re repeatedly used for other purposes, they loses their meaning.

I am confused by one of the cousins, a provocative female character. Although I understand the intention of her archetype (because let’s be honest, we all know at least one in our families), her so-called feminist mindset is compromised as she tells us that she’s misled a married man but it’s his decision to want and chase after her. I’m all for female equality, but I feel this character was written in spite of that.

Music! Yay, there is finally music. One of the characters can sing, but in te reo. He sings beautifully. When accompanied by the rest of the cast, it’s pretty bad. The guitar playing feels the same too and tuning pre-show, it would have made all the difference. The guitar playing is decent but not pleasant to the ears. I think to myself, that’s why a recorded sound track was played earlier.

My favourite scenes are two. In one, a masked cousin mimicks a drunk mother while being confronted by her daughter. The drunk mother is really well executed by her accurate delivery. These are very relatable signs of grief and I commend Suli and the actress for doing a great job of that. My other favourite scene has two actors vocalising online commentary in response to the nationwide case of Misi Masters. The shifts between different types of character responses and commentary is accurate also. Living in a world of social media, I hear every possible comment you would if the situation was real. 

My biggest disappointments are the big courtroom scene and the final scene. The courtroom scene has repeated phrases and I wondered if the cast have forgotten their lines and improvised. It’s important also to understand the meaning of the words coming out of your mouth. The cast member (although she played an awesome drunk mother) does not execute the judge role well as she emphasises the wrong words in her sentences, changing the meaning of what was written.

The last scene is also confusing as there is mention of a letter, written to the family of the supposed victimi from Misi. There is no resolution to the court case nor is there any change in any of the cousins. They remain the same quarrelling family, who, although united by circumstance, are still bickering with each other.

If a story is poorly executed but has heart and soul, then I will always find a way to forgive it. But if a story has no resolution, then I struggle to find its purpose. Even now, I’m struggling to figure out what the big dramatic question is. As a writer myself, I always look for character arcs so I am able to sympathise with one of them and go on their journey in the hopes that I will change with them too. This story potentially has the base to be amazing and I hope that it finds an end, because I’ve already written one in my head. 


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