Magdalena of Mangere

offers an eye-opening portrait of a suburb that is more commonly viewed as the nondescript backdrop for a drive to the airport.

Writer, director and performer Louise Tu'u presents a uniquely personal and often surprising theatre experience that challenges expectations while building a warmly intimate relationship with the audience.

The show takes a boldly experimental approach to theatrical forms but maintains the down-to-earth realism of a personal documentary. The everyday life of a low-income community unfolds in a series of fragmented encounters which have an open-ended conversational quality hinting at struggles or conflicts too painful to speak of.


Although the work is centred on the playwright's distinctive vision, it is a richly collaborative piece clearly based on creative engagement with members of the community and a talented team of theatre practitioners.

A wonderfully evocative score, by Peau Halapua, is performed live with the composer's expressive violin phrases floating and, at times, soaring above the velvety rhythms of a euphonium played by Linda Filimoehala.

Owen McCarthy's lighting design is neatly attuned to the minimalist style of the piece and the cast works toward blurring the conventions that separate the audience from the performance.

Andrew Malele establishes a commanding presence as an exuberant gym instructor with totalitarian tendencies while Mustaq Missouri offers a lyrical voice in an enigmatic role that has him shepherding balloons as he examines the tonality of a sigh.

Tu'u's ironic and low-key delivery wins plenty of laughs and there is an engaging cameo from a non-actor who puts forward practical solutions to the problem of young people opting out of political processes that might change their situation.

What: Magdalena of Mangere
Where: Mangere Arts Centre Nga Tohu o Uenuku to April 1
Reviewer: Paul Simei-Barton