Playwright Aroha Awarau has created a sensitive and engaging drama out of something that is almost unimaginably tragic - the random death of a young man cut down in his prime as an innocent bystander at a police shooting.

Although inspired by a heavily publicised incident, the play moves beyond the particularities of the event and takes us inside the mind of a mother as she searches for healing.

The story unfolds in a cemetery where a grieving Niuean mother encounters a palagi street kid who lost his mother to cancer. Their cross-cultural friendship generates plenty of down-to-earth humor and the tragedy is given relevance by placing it within the rhythms of everyday life.

With a journalist's instinct for revealing detail, the characters are delineated with great subtlety and emerge with all the messiness and contradictions of real people.

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Aruna Po-Ching takes us on a remarkable journey as the mother loses her sense of what is real before finding a way to reconnect with the things that make life worth living.

Taylor Barrett's lively performance builds an amusing portrait of a cheeky street kid who proves to be the perfect grief counselor. With nothing to live up to and untroubled by the need to say the right thing, he is able to confront the tragedy for what it is and give voice to things that are usually left unspoken.

Joe Folau movingly expresses the silent torment of a father who is worn down by the relentless demands of providing stability for his family.

The 60-minute play is enlivened with unexpected twists and dramatic jolts but the real strength comes from the gentler moments that remind us of our own mortality and simply affirm the value of being alive.

What: Officer 27
Where and when: The Basement, to September 27