[Honour the Story]
Uninvited is the first of the Over My Dead Body series by Tuatara Collective. This show is written/directed by Jason Te Mete, who in 2018 won Playmarket’s Adam NZ award by a Māori playwright for his play, Little Black Bitch (which will be performed later in the year as the second in the series). Uninvited is set at a flat warming party (for current tenants – Maria, Anaru and TJ) on the 30th November 2018, eve of World Aids Day. The show is set in-the-round, giving the actors on stage no room to hide.
The general storyline follows the current tenants who throw a flat warming party, but little do they know that uninvited random party guests will offer insight around significant items that have been left behind by the previous tenants: a pride flag (hung outside the kitchen window), a denim jacket found in TJ’s wardrobe and a scented candle left with a note found in the kitchen cupboard. The complexity of the story is shown through the interweaving storylines between each of the tenants who have unknown personal connections to the three random party guests from the past (Anna, Kate and Sam).
The majority of the cast are recent MIT performing arts graduates. Standout performance goes to Anna (Sese Pahulu) who embodies the idiosyncrasies of a ‘90s queen. Her lip sync moment is stellar and is equally convincing when her character shares a vulnerable moment about her character’s past experience. Judging by the audience reaction on opening night, Pahulu stole the spotlight in every scene she was in. At only 23 years young, her performance-level is already at par with other veteran actresses. Daedae Tekoronga-Waka (as Anaru) and Bella Robertson (as TJ) also gave impressive performances.
The general plot of the story is beautifully written. The story, which typically sat in the dramedy genre, had thriller elements by dealing with the spiritual world (which is not common) but executed cleverly. This intricate idea of connecting three people in the present with three people of the past is pure gold. The story is educational and delves into some matters from the unfortunate rise of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The story also challenges the conversations being had around the police marching in the Pride parade. Although I have heard of, researched and read about particular struggles in the past, hearing it being shared explicitly by Pahulu’s ‘90s character on stage was quite an experience the audience and I were not prepared for. And judging by the silence and quiet sniffles around the room, we really felt the pain, heaviness and realness of this story.
My only wish now is that more people see this, and honour the story that Jason Te Mete has carefully crafted. I am so excited to see more of his works being performed in the near future. And I can’t wait to see what the future holds for all these young and fresh performers from MIT.
Over my Dead Body: Uninvited plays at Basement Theatre until 16 Feb.