REVIEW: A Heart’s Path (Tales from the Kava Bowl)

Aotearoa's second Tongan play, A Heart's Path

Straight from the Heart [by Sharu Delilkan]

Aotearoa's second Tongan play, A Heart's Path

A Heart’s Path, written by Suli Moa, is the young playwright’s second Tongan play in less than two years.

I’m glad to see that talents like Moa are not a flash in the pan. I have to say congratulations bro for consistently making new works – may this be a sign of more to come.

The theatre was packed with people shortly after the 8 pm start time and you could feel the anticipation. What happened next would only happen in South Auckland – which is why I love coming to Mangere Arts Centre. One of the venue’s staff members Chris Molloy stood in front of the crowd on stage and bellowed “If there’s a seat next to you where you are please squash in because there are more people coming”. Needless to say when the show started the theatre was bursting at the seams.

In a full house with plenty of Tongan community support the show certainly and literally started with a bang and the audience knew this was not going to be a traditional PI offering.

A Heart’s Path is a tale of reality, where we as people have a choice to value the importance of its akonaki (life lessons). The paths of the three siblings Mafu, Mele and Kepu, each tell a separate tale allowing you to draw your own conclusions, right or wrong.

With the loss of their Fa’e (Mother) the Hala siblings face the challenge of finding a balance of surviving in the modern society of Aotearoa, without forgetting their Tongan culture and traditions.

The clever and flexible set consisted of a number of corrugated iron screens that were rotatable to reveal the relevant backdrops – absolutely genius. I wish I could credit someone for this design but unfortunately he or she hasn’t been mentioned in the programme.

The strong storyline centered around three siblings showed maturity and thoughtfulness. Mafu, intensely played by Michael Koloi, is released from prison the day after his beloved mother dies of cancer. His attempts to re-enter society and ‘do the right thing’ are naturally viewed with suspicion by much of the community and his family alike. Accompanied by sidekick Kepu aka K-Dog (Albert Mateni) their attempts to find a job were as heartbreaking as they were hilarious. The sub-plot of Mafu’s sister Mele, emotionally played by Nastassia Wolfgramm, and her love affair with wanna-be cop Sam (Suli Moa) weaves deftly into the narrative and allows for interesting insight into Tongan life and culture.

Although this is only Moa’s second play, he has shown great progress in his writing style. A Heart’s Path is definitely one of the more mature shows that we’ve seen recently – something both my hubby Tim and I really liked.

The ensemble acting was excellent. But I would be remiss if I didn’t commend Koloi for shining just a tad brighter than the rest of the cast. His delivery and ability to change moods at the drop of a hat showed skill and talent. Of course all the great performances are testament of director Kate-Louise Elliot’s astute stewardship, with the staunch assistance of Matariki Whatarau.

I also really enjoyed the interludes with Moa (Natalie Malietoa) who performed the traditional Tongan dance, primarily in silhouette, to Tongan music dressed in full Tongan regalia. Her glistening body really added to the whole cultural experience, giving the entire story great foundation.

The music that linked the scenes, including Rap, Soul, Pop and African sounds, were a great amalgamation of multiple genres. Jen Lal’s lighting design was extremely effective, enhancing the drama and mood of the production.

The story neatly comes full circle with an unexpected ending, which I felt aptly reflected traditions of family, loyalty and sacrifice.

A great play which both the crowd and I thoroughly enjoyed – recommended.

A Heart’s Path is presented by Tales from the Kava Bowl and plays at Mangere Arts Centre until 28 September as part of Matala Festival 2012. More information at Eventfinder

See also Theatreview.org.nz review by Nik Smythe

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1 Comment on REVIEW: A Heart’s Path (Tales from the Kava Bowl)

  1. Reading this review made me regret missing the show =( Anyway, congratulations to you both Suli and Natalie on a great production!! =)

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