Auckland Arts Festival: Taut study of dysfunction

By Paul Simei-Barton

Humour and tenderness emerge from talented cast in portrayal of explosive family life.

Tola Newbery, Maaka Pepene and Xavier Horan in Hui. Photo / Greg Bowker
Tola Newbery, Maaka Pepene and Xavier Horan in Hui. Photo / Greg Bowker

The festival offering from playwright Mitch Tawhi Thomas is a taut study of family dysfunction that finds plenty of life and laughter in the explosive quarrelling of estranged brothers thrown together by the death of their father.

The play presents an unflinching vision of a world where the ties that bind whanau together have unravelled leaving a collection of isolated individuals fumbling towards a sense of connection.

The nastiness of a vindictive family row will be familiar to all cultures and the script confounds expectations by suggesting that Maori experience is not always determined by the demands of tikanga.

Rachel House's assured direction ensures humour and tenderness emerge out of the carnage and the talented cast bring an appealing vitality to their characters.

Tola Newbery gives a deeply sympathetic portrayal of a mentally impaired character with hilarious child-like outbursts that avoid any sense of condescension.

Stephen Butterworth delivers a moving account of a transsexual character's struggle to assert her identity in a hostile family environment.

Xavier Horan's confrontational manner brings crucial tension but his character feels underdeveloped with a life changing transition from the Mongrel Mob to Destiny Church scripted in a cliched shorthand.

Vinnie Bennett also has a stereotypical role as a dimwitted rugby league star but his story gains credibility with the appearance of his pregnant girlfriend played by Cassie Baker who finds a rich vein of humour in the psychobabble of a New Age life coach.

Perhaps the greatest strength of the drama is its avoidance of easy solutions and the play ends with a powerfully evocative image that is both destructive and optimistic.

Review

What: Hui
Where: Q Theatre until March 23
Reviewer: Paul Simei-Barton

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 23 Dec 2014 15:33:20 Processing Time: 373ms