REVIEW: Po’ Boys and Oysters (Black Creatives Aotearoa)


[Timeless and timely]

Empty of performers, the primary stage at Basement is adorned with eye-catching intricacies to characterize a dwelling space and kitchen – there’s a luxurious inexperienced velvet sofa, vibrant map of Haiti and a potted plant… with browning leaves. After home lights dim, our central characters Jo (Layla Pitt) and Flo (Estelle Chout) enter with various states of power. Prepping the home for a cocktail party, Flo is nervous and erratic in distinction to Jo’s laid-back optimism as she chooses a playlist and defends her outfit selection. Instantly, we perceive the connection dynamics between the 2 characters, with wry chuckles of figuring out from the largely queer and POC viewers. 

As Flo and Jo recalibrate, relieving Flo’s rigidity with a comedic therapeutic massage, the dialog skips alongside – vocalising Flo’s concern over her antagonistic sister, and alluding to a secret they should spill. Estelle Chout’s script is so refined and filled with pure factors of humour that it takes solely a second earlier than the viewers is absolutely submerged in Flo and Jo’s world. 

Then Marie (Sandra Zvenyika), the lady we’ve heard a lot about, enters – trailed by her husband, Shane (Andrew Johnson), and his apprentice, Felix from Fielding (Jack Briden). As Felix shortly devours the oysters supplied up for everybody, we realise this clueless get together interloper goes to make issues quite a bit more durable for Flo and Jo. 

What follows is a totally partaking – and wholly plausible – dialogue in close to real-time about Flo and Jo’s life-choices. With out dipping into spoilers, there are quite a few factors of battle for the sisters. Statements are fierce and their body-language is confrontational – and it’s superb, and humorous, and genuine. Moments like these spotlight the inventive affect of Black Creatives Aotearoa – when three multifaceted, advanced, black ladies take up house with out being moderated by a Pākehā lens. 

The extensive stage house means there are a number of moments the place particular person characters develop into the point of interest, however the solid additionally work in tandem to interact – with seemingly pure, but choreographed path: Flo and Jo gleefully dance after they serve up the profitable level of an argument; hyper-critical Marie trims lifeless leaves from the plant – the viewers in suits of laughter with the tiniest snip of her nail scissors. 

There’s little question the path of Dione Joseph has managed to make an already nice script even higher. The performers are a real ensemble, working arduous to persuade us of the complexities of their relationships, and the arduous work pays off. 

So enraptured, I’m not conscious of how a lot time handed and, after exiting the theatre, I didn’t examine the time for what felt like the very best a part of an hour. The ambiance was celebratory and conversations continued because the solid and inventive crew got here to mingle.  

Estelle Chout’s script and efficiency are each exceptionally nuanced. The shortest phrase strikes motion alongside, the smallest facial features elicits emotion. This was the primary queer, black love-story on stage in Aotearoa – a landmark celebration by Black Creatives Aotearoa. 

This play wants to be seen, devoured and uplifted – as does BCA’s subsequent one, and the subsequent.   

Po’ Boys and Oysters performs Basement Theatre twenty seventh September to eighth October, 2022 


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