Bravery the Massive Way [by James Wenley]
I see a lot of theatre, and I enjoy a lot of theatre, but it’s a rare show that’s able to cut through and grab you on a deeply personal level. That show is Massive Company’s The Brave.
Eight men, embodying bravery in body and souls, share their personal stories and experiences of their lives and masculinities.
Q’s stage is bare. Massive old-hand Scott Cotter begins alone on stage, a spotlight slowly building as his voice calls out in karanga. He acknowledges the people who came before us, an important theme – these men often define themselves in relation to others that have inspired and challenged them. One by one, the rest of the cast, ranging in age from 20-31, join him onstage. They walk around the room, taking us and each other in. Some walk solo, some walk together, powerful.
Directed by Massive founder Sam Scott, and Carla Martell and devised by the company, the show’s springboard were letters the cast were asked to write to important people who were in, or out of their lives. These letters – to fathers, mothers, grandmothers, and their own selves, are weaved through the show and form a powerful emotional backbone for the rest of the work to build around.
Play favours The Brave [by Sharu Delilkan]
Massive Company’s latest production The Brave marks a number of firsts for the cast’s oldest actor, Jonny Moffatt.
The show is a milestone in the 30-year-old’s acting career as he will not only be debuting with Massive Company but also at Q and the Mangere Arts Centre.
Moffatt says “Although I have never worked with the company before I could sense the collective energy when I stepped into the rehearsal room on the first day. It immediately felt like we were on the same page.
The Brave also marks Massive Company turning 21. In keeping with the spirit of Massive’s devised theatre style, the show is created from true confessions – baby teeth to mortgages – where eight men front up on a bare stage ready to risk it all, stripping away every facade.
The Brave’s cast members include Todd Emerson (My Wedding & Other Secrets), Beulah Koale (Havoc in the Garden), Scott Cotter (TV3’s Brown Bruthaz) and Dominic Ona-Ariki (Shortland Street) as well as newcomers to the stage Andy Sani, Leki Jackson Bourke and Neil Amituanai.
The ‘sense of play’ or as director and Massive Company founder Sam Scott refers to as ‘le jeu’ – the French word for game – is an element of the process that Moffatt has really relished.
There will be Havoc. In the Garden.
HAVOC IN THE GARDEN rehearsals look like crazy fun. Each day starts with the most high-stakes, intense game of handball I have ever seen, making my high-school handball games look like a game for, well, kids. There are shouts, and loud howls of triumph when director Sam Scott is finally vanquished out of the top square. She pulls the 14 actors, made up of experienced and emerging actors, into a circle to discuss the day’s rehearsal. Actress Kura Forrester assumes a childlike alter-ego and affectionately strokes the director’s cheek. Wesley Dowdell (so good as Aaron in Outrageous Fortune) is congratulated for his role in kiwi film Love Birds. Miriama McDowell (This is not my life) talks about a difficult photoshoot did for Metro Magazine. Meeting over, Sam announces that one of the youngest actors, Beulah, is going to take the cast for a Zumba workshop. “ZUMBA!” - Scott Cotter is very excited. The cast give the Latin moves their all.
If it all sounds like fun and games, the youngest and freshest actors of the cast Beulah Koale, Jake Toaga, Tuyet Nguyen, Olive Asi and Loretta Aukuso are quick to point out just how tough, draining, and fricking hard work the process can be for making a show for the Auckland Arts Festival.
Havoc in the Garden is a play about family. Five different family groups are exposed through the story. “They all have something they’re hiding and not telling each other” says Beulah. He and Jake are part of a family of Samoans - “they try to cover up everything, they think they’re tough, but not really, deep down inside they are hurting…. They just don’t want to show it because they’re big tough Islanders.”
Olive, Loretta and Tuyet play a loose ‘family’ of friends. “We’re not really a family, but we’re friends, we’re all just friends.” As for the other families? “Not as cool as us” says Jake, but there’s a brother and sister, a family that reunites, and Scott Cotter who “is on his own doing monologues!”.
Havoc in the Garden has been written especially for, and with the cast members. English playwright Lennie James, who previously collaborated with Massive Company on the Sons of Charlie Paora, was inspired by the actors’ own life stories. The process began with initial workshop auditions with a larger group of Massive actors:
Beulah: He gave us provocations – What’s family to us? What’s home for us? We’d answer these provocations however we like. Some people had stories behind it. Then he picked out stories from people – oh this might go well with this guy’s story – it’s a collective story, broken down, edited.
Jake: Most of them are all true stories.
Beulah: Everything’s true.
Olive: There was like a process. We had two workshop auditions for the show and during that process we had to talk about our own personal life stories. We showed what we wanted to give to him, and then he went away and he chose who he wanted to develop a play with I guess, and he used our stories as ideas, and that’s how he came up with the script. It’s basically being ourselves and giving what we have to give to him.
Beulah: But then he adds his own flavour…
Olive: He’ll do a draft, and then he’ll come back to us and we’ll read it and do a video blog sort of thing and send it off to him and tell him what we felt wasn’t us, or what he needed more to add on or something and then he’ll tweak it again and send it back to us, another draft. We’ve had like five drafts so far.