REVIEW: Sunset Road (Tawata Productions)

Miria George pays tribute to her grandparents in Sunset Road.

Easy ride along Sunset Road [by Sharu Delilkan]

Miria George pays tribute to her grandparents in Sunset Road.
Miria George pays tribute to her grandparents in Sunset Road.

Only after watching the show did I discover that Sunset Road is Miria George‘s first play focussing on her Cook Islands whakapapa and gave me more insight into why the show was set in the 1970s, charting her grandparents’ story.

A multitude of themes resonate within Sunset Road, the same way that the base drum does in the opening scene of the piece.

Jamiee Warda and Wai Mihinui’s set design is intriguing, assaulting and downright fascinating. They have created a very versatile rooftop set that covers two thirds of the stage in perpendicular adjoining modules. But what is most exciting is the fact that the cambre of the gradient makes for great momentum when the twins Lucia (Aroha White) and Luka (Nathan Mudge) get on his classic triumph motorbike aka his trusty Bonneville, which symbolises freedom. Tony de Goldi’s design of the kana (stool-type coconut grater) and bench design is simple with clean lines and are equally utilitarian as they are aesthetically pleasing. Rose Miller’s print design that adorns the floor in a geometric delination of the stage is very clever and adds a great Pacific Island feel to the overall flavour of the set.

Sunset Road weaves history and imagination, to tell a story inspired by George’s whanau. The journey from Areora, Atiu, Cook Islands to 76 Sunset Road, Rotorua is beautifully re-told through the somewhat innocent eyes of the twins Lucia and Luka. It’s essentially a voyage that many who’ve settled in Aotearoa from the Pacific Islands will be able to relate to, on various levels.

It’s a treat to see all three actors on stage because they give consistently magnificent performances, both in an out of the spotlight. White and Mudge are perfectly cast as they spark and console each other in a truly believable fashion. Taungaroa Emile’s acting is equally flawless. His subtle and intelligence interpretation of a role that could so easily have been stereotyped instead displays great breadth. This is evident by his ability to switch accents and language as well as take the audience on an emotional journey. Not surprising I suppose given his experience that spans more than two decades.

George’s insightful writing and personal story has definite appeal. She has the ability to take you back to the era that she has set the show in but is equally skilled at making all her characters endearing, in their various shapes and forms.

Although only 80-minutes long, which I feel is the ideal length for a piece that has no interval, I must admit there were a few bits about two thirds way through that dragged a tad. But that can be easily fixed, following opening night.

Sunset Road is yet another slick Tawata Productions show which complemented the talented ensemble cast on stage.

This play reminds us that one person’s sunset can result in another’s sunrise.

In short Sunset Road is an enlightening and heartwarming drama, and as a tribute to George’s family it truly shines.

Presented by Tawata Productions Sunset Road plays at Q The Loft until 23 Aug. Details see Q

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz Review by Vanessa Byrnes

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