Review: The Island, Mangere Arts Centre

By Janet McAllister

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Massive Company's young actors are strutting their stuff in Scotland
Massive Company's young actors are strutting their stuff in Scotland

This warm-hearted hour is a signature Massive Company ensemble piece: real-life snippets cleverly performed with spark and verve by six emerging artists, polished and packaged within vaguely themed, slightly earnest framing.

There are a lot of mannered, collective swooping movements, but when the performers are allowed to break ranks and show individual personality to tell their own stories with energy and humour, they're captivating.

Directed by Sam Scott and Miriama McDowell, Sieni Leo'o comically compares her grandparents' easy comfort with each other to her own escaping stomach when talking to a boy; Liam Jacobson remembers watching shooting stars while lying on the grass at Mangawhai campground. This is young adults' nostalgia for a childhood and adolescence that they've only just realised they've left for good.

Particularly enthralling, Denyce Su'a explains her love of saying the word "perpendicular" - "It's like my tongue is doing a tango and my lips are clapping in amazement " - and in a rare and stunning gender reversal, Jacobson and taller Su'a perform a wonderful, refreshing, tender pas-de-deux.

The perennial search for New Zealand identity continues - going barefeet may be our strongest cultural marker - but happily Samoa ("my favourite place!") is also discussed by the three cast members of Samoan heritage, with no thought to forcing the two loyalties into artificial opposition.

There's no set to speak of, but Michael Craven's lighting is more than up to the challenge of creating a dynamic environment on its own. The title, in spite of a vague hand-wave attempt at the end to make it mean an excessive number of things, is most easily interpreted as ironic: the play shows how no man is an island and it does so with enjoyably upbeat positivity.

What: The Island
Where Mangere Arts Centre - Nga Tohu o Uenuku

- NZ Herald

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