The Rotorua community came together to help raise funds for cyclone-hit Tonga, while enjoying cultural performances and chuckling along to a play-reading.

A Play On reading was held on Wednesday evening at The Arts Village, following a performance by the Rotorua Vai Ko Latai Support Youth Group to raise funds.

When Category 4 Cyclone Gita hit a couple weeks ago it was the fiercest storm in the Pacific Island nation's recorded history.

The eye of the storm tore through the main island, Tongatapu.


Winds of up to 260km/h destroyed buildings, toppled trees, cut power and water connections and flooded the low-lying islands with large sea swells.

The Rotorua Vai Ko Latai Support Youth Group performed five items, featuring Tongan, Samoan and Fijian cultural dances.

During these performances, red buckets were taken around so people could donate.

The Play On cast had the audience laughing out loud. Photo/Shauni James
The Play On cast had the audience laughing out loud. Photo/Shauni James

Naomi Akauola says they appreciate the support and thanked those who attended the event and donated.

She says it was great to have the youth perform the cultural dances for the audience.

Naomi says the money raised will go towards paying for container expenses, which are between $3000 and $4000, so supplies could be sent back to Tonga.

A cast of six did a play reading of Rubber Turkey by Eli Kent, a dark comedy about four comic muses who were losing their ability to be funny.

Play reader Simone Walker says they are thrilled people came out to support this important cause.


"It's awesome to see the colour, vibrancy and heart of the Tongan performers.

"It's a real honour to share the stage with them."

Audience member Alison Jones says she was happy to contribute to the fundraiser.

"It's great to see the community out here, it's fantastic."

She says the Play On performances is a great medium for trying different plays.

Sue Tubb, who was also in the audience, thinks this Play On performance, as well the previous one she saw, were both brilliant.

"They were different and entertaining. It had the audience laughing out loud."

She says it is nice the performances are at The Arts Village and that you can go inside, buy a drink from the cafe, and watch.

She says the cultural dances were a nice introduction to the play.

"They danced beautifully and had lovely smiles on their faces.

"I think everyone there was happy to donate the money."