Thicker than Water
The third work written for Massive Theatre Company by English writer Lennie James and directed by Sam Scott, Half of the Sky explores themes of sisterhood, love and loss over a weekend of birthday celebrations. Known as the Rose triplets due to their birthdays being three days apart from one another, middle sister Ru (Awhina-Rose Henare Ashby), and the youngest, Rika (Grace Palmer), rally around Ny (Kura Forrester) as she deals with a terminal illness, the ending of her marriage, and worries about the future of her daughter. In the midst of personal chaos, Ny’s blossoming relationship with Sefa (Max Palamo) becomes a point of contention between her and Ru. The importance of whānau and the family bonds that tie us together are emphasised in the relationship between Sefu and his nephew Fetu (Patrick Tafa), whom Sefu decided to look after when his sister could not.
In the face of death, Ny gains clarity in regards to how she has lived her life and begins to make some hard choices, including letting some relationships go: ‘Knowing what’s going to happen to me, things become clear. When I think of me and him, I feel ashamed… of what I did for him. I feel that all I have done is be a part of him’. At this moment, Ny stands her ground and makes some life-affirming choices deciding what she believes to be best for herself and her daughter.
These rather poignant moments are juxtaposed with more light-hearted ones that include Fetu busting out some rap, the sisters singing to TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’, and arguing over their different interpretations to shared memories, including one in which Rika claims Ru had tried to ‘kill her’. The relationship between the sisters and their different personalities and interpretations into how they experience their parents and shared family history is ripe for drama and revelation.
The plot’s pacing needs fine tuning: there are parts which I felt needed more of a background story and build-up leading to key important moments. This includes the romance between Ny and Sefa, when Ny’s problems with her husband at the beginning of the play morphs into Ny and Sefa becoming a couple quite suddenly. Their romance becomes more pronounced as the play progresses however, with a rather moving performance by Palamo at the end.
Half of the Sky is a play that makes us think about our priorities and life choices, confronting us with the dynamics of familial love.
Half of the Sky plays Q Theatre until 26 October.