One well-known New Zealander and his family are airing their struggles on the Baycourt stage this month and audiences are in for a powerful, brutally honest performance that will have many reaching for the tissues.

Renowned hip-hop artist Malo Luafutu, aka Scribe, with his father John, and brother Matthias have written and perform in the play, The White Guitar - the true story of their family, the Luafutus.

It tells the story of a Samoan grandmother's dream of a better life in New Zealand and the harrowing reality of the move for John, who was a migrant, an outsider in a new culture and country. It is the story of hardship and loss: the journey from boyhood innocence into violence, drug addiction, prison and gangs - to the possibility of hope, healing and redemption.

Audiences have been stunned to tears by the honesty of their story, and Malo once cried real tears in a performance.

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"It is hard because the memories are real, certain times when we act out a scene - in my mind it happened yesterday. I cried because I was reliving all the emotion. That is when the power of the stage clicked. That's the beauty of theatre, because the process does have healing properties. It is therapeutic - even though it is hard with the memories."

He says he was not initially keen to participate in the production because the truth of his upbringing was confronting and shameful.

"I'm grateful now that we are putting our story out there, and the way it has been received. People are connecting with our story. Realising other Kiwis go through these things as well, it has helped me find peace with my past and knowing that life is hard for everybody."

Redemption and forgiveness are themes of the play and of their lives today - as is the realisation that truth leads to healing.

"The truth has set us free. All families have secrets. Telling our story has freed the stigma and shame. When people see the life we have had and what we have achieved, it is liberating.

"As a kid you don't understand why my dad did the things he did. But as an adult you understand. He was beating us because he didn't want us to be like him. He just didn't have the tools and communication skills that we have "When I was young and I saw other kids with their dads, I was ashamed of him. He was a gangster and other kids were scared of him. I hated my dad. Releasing that resentment has set me free."

Director Nina Nawalowalo says the play has been a privilege to work on as the three men have "laid out their truths - truths that other people try to hide". "This is a story about finding a voice in the midst of dark times, the triumph of survival and keeping the creative flame alight."

the fine print
What: The White Guitar
When: October 14-15
Where: Baycourt Addison Theatre