Ever wondered what it would be like to stand in front of a room full of people and tell them how you really feel about life, love and the universe? Ask young performers Akinehi Munroe, Jes'mine Palaaia and Stephanie Fink this question and they'll tell you it feels great; in fact, they'll urge more of us to do it more often.

Aged 16 - 25, the young women join four others in Chance to Ignite, a highly physical production which combines real-life stories with boxing and the martial art jiu-jitsu. The show is the latest from Massive, a theatre company known for crafting stories from members' own experiences.

The company runs Massive Nui Ensemble for young performers, and Chance to Ignite has developed with members of this group. The seven-strong cast knew being part of it would mean coming to workshops and rehearsals ready to discuss what gets under their skin and, says Fink, knowing it was an accepting environment in which to do so.

So they talked about the strongest women they knew, what it's like to be a sister - all have brothers - and how they felt about simply sitting under a tree with nothing but listening to music to occupy their time. They interviewed five significant people in their lives and asked, 'what does hope mean to you?' and generally riffed on what makes and breaks their worlds.


It felt good, says Munroe.

"We don't talk to one another about this stuff often enough," says the 16 year old Western Springs College student. "When you're working and going to school, it's not an easy thing to even find the time to sit down and think about stuff."

But when you do, and share your thoughts and feelings with others, there can be surprising revelations.

"You find you're not alone," says Fink, "and that there are other people who think and feel, and maybe have the same responses to stuff, that you do. The amount of time when we started talking and someone would say, 'that's what I think!' or 'I had the same response'."

Palaaia, who travelled to Scotland with Massive Nui Ensemble's last show, says it's about being honest, open and starting a conversation about what it means to be alive. If there's one message to take away, she says it's that it's okay to not be okay.

"Sometimes you feel like s*** and that's normal and that happens."

While it's an all-female cast, the trio says Chance to Ignite focuses more on forging connections and revealing truths we rarely share rather than being a young woman today. It might have an inherent feminism, but that's not the main theme.

The boxing and the jiu-jitsu came about because it was part of a rehearsal warm-up routine led by the show's co-director Tuyet Nguyen, who's also a mixed martial art fighter.

"We're not trying to make a point by doing the boxing," says Munroe. "We're doing it because we can be our ugly, sweaty selves!"

While this might be an early chance for stage-time for the younger members of Massive, the company's track record for producing the next generation of actors and directors is good. Kiwi actor Beulah Koala, soon to appear on the eighth season of Hawaii Five-O, started acting with Massive while Kura Forrester, Madeleine Sami, Miriama McDowell, Wesley Dowdell and Westside's Todd Emerson have all performed with the company.

What: Chance to Ignite
Where & when: Loft, Q Theatre, Tuesday - Saturday; Mangere Arts Centre, August 2 - 5