REVIEW: Dawn Raids (Pacific Underground and Auckland Theatre Company)

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Andi Crown Photography

Dawn Raids by Oscar Kightley was first staged by theatre collective Pacific Underground in 1997, 20 years after the nationwide outrage. The play’s snapshot of the unlawful raids on Pacific folks below the guise of cracking down on overstayers would have hit house for everybody who skilled it — everybody whose households and associates had confronted not solely the violation of their home area however their proper to name themselves New Zealanders. 

Fast ahead two and a half many years to 2021 and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern points a historic apology for the raids, acknowledging the federal government’s discriminatory software of immigration legislation and the dehumanising remedy of Pacific folks, Māori and different folks of color by Police. With these subjects already scorching on our nation’s lips, it’s straightforward to see why Pacific Underground and ATC felt a re-staging of Oscar Kightley’s play was warranted this yr.

Told with honesty and a liberal dose of humour, Dawn Raids follows one Sāmoan household throughout two main areas. The first is the household house, the place Sione (Michael Falesiu)’s fiancée Fuarosa (Gabrielle Solomona) is below risk of deportation for overstaying if she ventures out previous the letterbox. Meanwhile, Sione’s mom To’aga (Bella Kalolo-Suraj) struggles to take care of peace between his father, cussed traditionalist Mose (Lauie Tofa), and politically passionate sister, Teresa (Talia-Rae Mavaega). The second location is the Paradise Honeypot Club, the place Sione croons Elvis hits along with his band The Noble Hawai’ian Sabretooth Tigers. 

The set design by G.O.M Arts Collective, Mark McEntyre and Tony De Goldi does simply sufficient to ascertain these two very totally different areas with out including unneeded complexity, creating the household house with a number of items of furnishings and two screens hung with household images. The screens are important, conserving out the truth of the raids and the random Police checks of anybody who doesn’t “look like a Kiwi”. By distinction, the Paradise Honeypot Club welcomes the world in, with Sione singing and talking on to us. Jo Kilgour’s lighting appropriately creates the atmosphere of the Club, utilizing a constant pink to situate us on this fantasy area — for the present makes clear, although not cynically, that that is fantasy. Performing each evening as his smooth-talking alter ego “Fabian”, Sione distances himself from his Sāmoan heritage. (“Why are you talking American?” Mose asks after stumbling into the Club.)

As nicely as addressing the raids, the present explores a household combating their very own battles round cultural identification and household construction. The sturdy solid (together with Italia Hunt’s Steve and Jake Tupu’s Bene) helps Kightley’s flawed however likeable characters shine. While the promoting centres Falesiu’s charismatic Sione, credit score can also be as a result of Mavaega for her efficiency as feisty Teresa and Kalolo-Suraj for her agency and compassionate To’aga, whose very pure dynamic with Tofa’s Mose makes their clashes really feel significantly actual. 

Despite the heavy subject material, comedy and music are the spine of the present. Musical director Posenai Mavaega’s sound work helps the narrative shift right into a extra bittersweet register, comparable to when Mose’s buddy Steve, one of many solely Sāmoans within the Police, thinks of his father and homeland. When we lastly see the raids taking place, the breezy guitar we’re so accustomed to listening to from Sione’s band melts into the sirens in a approach that’s successfully unsettling. Mostly, although, music is an emblem of escape from an at occasions unfriendly world; with Sione’s performances serving as a rousing starting and finish to the play.

Dawn Raids appears to be like previous the historical past books with heat and hope, emphasising the resilience of Pacific folks at a time when the state stood in opposition to them. Directors Troy Tu’ua and Tanya Muagututi’a (together with assistant director Jake Tupu) have delivered to life a vibrant present that’s nicely value a visit all the way down to the waterfront.

Dawn Raids is offered by Pacific Underground and Auckland Theatre Company and performs at ASB Waterfront Theatre 16 August – 3 September, 2022.

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