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BREAKING GROUND

My family left Sri Lanka and moved to Aotearoa in 1990. We lived in Newlands, the progressive suburb. Nothing much had really progressed in the years that I lived there except for the sign that welcomed us. A green Mana coach would drive through Ngauranga gorge and take you into the city. We moved here to New Zealand because of the Civil War that broke out in my home country. Our libraries back home were burnt down and much of our literature gone forever. Since moving here, I have always believed that writing was important, it was important for our national identity as we were denied ours.

FIRE IN THE WATER

I’m not sure what the future holds for fire in the water, fire in the sky, even though the show has now been postponed three times – with the South Pacific Arts Festival twice postponed, now ’til 2024. I feel something really momentous is coming. Maybe this is a time to allow us more time to reflect, grow and cultivate our story. Things happen for a reason and all in good timing. Our whakapapa, our relationships, our kōrero and our journeys will be strengthened once more.

THE PROSPECT

Honestly, it was kind of terrifying. At the top of the show Hombre, Te Manawanui and Ugg are tight. Nothing comes between them. So, naturally, I got close to Tola and Moana Ete – very close: we drank together, smoked, jammed. I distinctly remember one night we were on Cuba Street, Tola and I decided to busk but I was so out of it that I couldn’t sing any louder than a whisper. That same night we spoke of potential acts of vandalism we could perform. There’s this four way intersection on Cuba Street and Abel Smith Street with four stop signs and road markings that from the top-down make up the edges of a very infamous symbol. If he and I were to stand in the middle of adjacent streets with rollers and yellow paint we could both run a line from one side to the other thereby making the cross that would ultimately finish the giant swastika hidden in the middle of town.  This was, looking back, Te Manawanui and Hombre up to their usual mischief. It’s also worth mentioning that until doing this show I’d never been on stage with another young Māori male – usually I’m it – and that certainly played its part in our friendship.

WHO’S POPPIN?

I was ridiculously unrealistic with my objectives.  It was a stupid-crazy attempt at telling a story about a street culture, housed in the culture of Theatre, through an unconventional structure about a dance form: a subject matter that was a culture in its own right, that was its own language of expression. I often felt as though I was trying to paint sound, or trying to find the pitch of colour. Furthermore, I loved the convention Shakespeare created in Hamlet of a play within a play. I loved that Tom Stoppard advanced this convention in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, writing a play, within a play, within a play. Though I felt the objectives were already insurmountable, I didn’t care and attempted to advance it in my own way, painting a metaphor, within a metaphor, within a metaphor, within a play. Ridiculous. Yet, a profit percentage in the thousands, a very flattering review, an award and an invitation to remount the show at Downstage Theatre as the result of that napkin slide by Hone and these ridiculous objectives… we did alright I reckon.
The Premiere Play by Sarita So

NEANG NEAK’S LEGACY

The beginning seems like an appropriate place…  I used to imagine what it would feel like to see myself on stage. To see a recognisable representation of my people, my family, me, and though I am patient, to this day, I’ve had stolen glimpses, but it hasn’t happened yet. Nothing you want comes from anybody else, it comes from you.  Sometimes, an invitation is the only thing you need, and with some good guidance, then you just bring you.

BLESS THE CHILD

First shown at the City Gallery, Wellington

AND WHAT REMAINS

As rehearsals progressed, I learned to live with this feeling, the most immediate impact it had on me was to make me listen more and think before I spoke. But importantly, I felt trusted and supported to continue to be honest about my experience because in this microcosm of Aotearoa that we were creating, my character was there for a reason. I struggled with impulses to ignore the feeling of discomfort, to deny its existence, but the intensity of the support and the fearlessness of the others I was working with inspired me to stay with it.

THE NIGHT MECHANICS

As I sit here in Malaysia in 2020, living under a hijacked government and a pandemic, Mīria’s words echo “Is this a protest play or a cautionary tale?” I know there’s work to be done in this world, as artists, as humans, fighting for arts in schools, a living wage, fighting for justice. I know we must take it to the streets, but we cannot leave the house. Perhaps all we can do is keep speaking truth to power, keep writing, sharing. In The Night Mechanics, the bad guys didn’t die, and the good guys didn’t win. All stories end but a good one always continues, in ours, it was Hine standing in front of her people, reminding them to stand again, to face a fight that hasn’t been won. We may not always win, but it is good to remember that the fight is always on our side.
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