Review: The White Guitar, Q Theatre Rangatira

By Paul Simei-Barton

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The men of the Luafutu family perform in The White Guitar. One is Malo, aka Scribe.
The men of the Luafutu family perform in The White Guitar. One is Malo, aka Scribe.

Theatre doesn't get much more real than this. Two brothers and their father stand onstage to give an unfiltered account of their lives. The hook is that one of the men is the rapper Scribe - who in 2003 enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom on the back of the mega-hit Not Many.

Buried within the play is a Pacific Island Eight Mile - every bit as tough and inspiring as rapper Eminem's rags-to-riches biopic. But rather than focusing exclusively on this material, The White Guitar presents Scribe's achievements in hip-hop as one strand in the dense texture of a multi-generational family saga.

The familiar story of Pacific Island immigrants discovering New Zealand is not the land of milk and honey is given a surprising twist when Scribe's father becomes immersed in 1960s counterculture and loses himself in a toxic haze of drug addiction, crime and violence.

Having a real family acting out their own stories is a risky strategy that pays off handsomely due to the brutal honesty of the performances.

Matthias Luafutu, who trained at Toi Whakaari - the NZ Drama School, displays an impressive range of acting skills along with a down-to-earth charm acquired from the school of hard knocks. Malo Luafutu (aka Scribe) is a natural showman with a cheeky sense of humor and the same swag that rocketed him to the top the charts. The father, Fa'amoana John Luafutu, is most eloquent playing electric guitar and his soundtrack gives powerful expression to the shifting emotions of the piece.

The Conch's production brings together a wonderfully talented creative team with the co-directors complementing each other's strengths. Nina Nawalowalo has a flair for lyrical visual effects while Jim Moriarty's life-long commitment to authentic community theatre ensures the performances are breathtakingly real.

What: The White Guitar
Where: Q Theatre, Rangatira to July 15.

- NZ Herald

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