There was much anticipation at the Mangere Arts Centre as the eager audience were about to witness New Zealand’s first ever full length Tongan play to be performed by a full Tongan cast with both English and Tongan dialogue.
For the first time this Samoan wasn’t so sure as to how I could stay tuned to the script without wondering what on earth was going on. Thankfully writer and main actor Suli Moa masterfully pieces his work for all to follow without being too many steps behind.
Pacific people are well known for their navigational skills through their ancestors’ ocean travels. This play takes us through a journey that isn’t always plain sailing the characters but one that requires the skills to survive with what little resources they have.
Kingdom of Lote is a tale of traditions versus the modern, of hopes and dreams pinned on one and not the other, of how the old and the new can work together if we can only find and appreciate the balance.
Lote, who is the solo mum of the family, is well played by Sesilia Pusiaki who displays a maturity about her role. By no means a household name, yet, don’t be surprised to see her on our screens, as with so many of this cast who are just simply fantastic.
Like so many Pacific mothers, Lote is proud, loyal, humorous and at times a fierce defender for her family’s future. But whose future will she sacrifice her all for? For whose future will she go as far as to let the telephone get cut off, just so she can buy a pair of shoes for one of her children?
Both of Lote’s children are gifted, talented and have what it takes to succeed in their passions. Saia (Suli Moa) is the rugby star; his twin sister Sela (Maile Finau) is a political star on the rise.Which of these ‘balls’ does Lote take her eye off?
There is action in this play from the get go, singing and dancing intertwine cleverly as the supporting cast – who are in fact the ‘Kava Club’ – humour us as if they were our imaginary cheer leading squad. This play will find you laughing, it touches on subjects that are cutting edge yet the writer finds a balance to counter-argue.
May I salute the cast and executive for a historical offering from the Artistic life of Tongans in New Zealand. A fabulous opening night ended in true Pacific hospitality with catered food and drinks for its guest.
I already feel strong and ready to run, what was in that food? You may be thinking right now that I don’t make sense, or am I ‘barking mad’? Just ask a Tonga But beware, go to this play and you will likely end up falling off your chair.
17 May – 21 May
Suli Moa presented by the Kila Kokonut Krew.
Mangere Arts Centre, Corner of Bader and Orly Drive, Auckland
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