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REVIEW: Daybreak Raids (Pacific Underground and Auckland Theatre Firm)


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Daybreak Raids by Oscar Kightley was first staged by theatre collective Pacific Underground in 1997, 20 years after the nationwide outrage. The play’s snapshot of the unlawful raids on Pacific individuals underneath the guise of cracking down on overstayers would have hit dwelling for everybody who skilled it — everybody whose households and pals had confronted not solely the violation of their home area however their proper to name themselves New Zealanders. 

Quick ahead two and a half many years to 2021 and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern points a historic apology for the raids, acknowledging the federal government’s discriminatory utility of immigration legislation and the dehumanising remedy of Pacific individuals, Māori and different individuals of color by Police. With these matters already sizzling on our nation’s lips, it’s simple to see why Pacific Underground and ATC felt a re-staging of Oscar Kightley’s play was warranted this 12 months.

Advised with honesty and a liberal dose of humour, Daybreak Raids follows one Sāmoan household throughout two main areas. The primary is the household dwelling, the place Sione (Michael Falesiu)’s fiancée Fuarosa (Gabrielle Solomona) is underneath risk of deportation for overstaying if she ventures out previous the letterbox. In the meantime, Sione’s mom To’aga (Bella Kalolo-Suraj) struggles to keep up peace between his father, cussed traditionalist Mose (Lauie Tofa), and politically passionate sister, Teresa (Talia-Rae Mavaega). The second location is the Paradise Honeypot Membership, the place Sione croons Elvis hits together with his band The Noble Hawai’ian Sabretooth Tigers. 

The set design by G.O.M Arts Collective, Mark McEntyre and Tony De Goldi does simply sufficient to ascertain these two very totally different areas with out including unneeded complexity, creating the household dwelling with just a few items of furnishings and two screens hung with household pictures. The screens are vital, preserving out the truth of the raids and the random Police checks of anybody who doesn’t “appear like a Kiwi”. Against this, the Paradise Honeypot Membership welcomes the world in, with Sione singing and talking on to us. Jo Kilgour’s lighting appropriately creates the atmosphere of the Membership, utilizing a constant purple to situate us on this fantasy area — for the present makes clear, although not cynically, that that is fantasy. Performing each evening as his smooth-talking alter ego “Fabian”, Sione distances himself from his Sāmoan heritage. (“Why are you speaking American?” Mose asks after stumbling into the Membership.)

In addition to addressing the raids, the present explores a household preventing their very own battles round cultural identification and household construction. The sturdy solid (together with Italia Hunt’s Steve and Jake Tupu’s Bene) helps Kightley’s flawed however likeable characters shine. Whereas the promoting centres Falesiu’s charismatic Sione, credit score can also be on account of Mavaega for her efficiency as feisty Teresa and Kalolo-Suraj for her agency and compassionate To’aga, whose very pure dynamic with Tofa’s Mose makes their clashes really feel significantly actual. 

Regardless of the heavy material, comedy and music are the spine of the present. Musical director Posenai Mavaega’s sound work helps the narrative shift right into a extra bittersweet register, resembling when Mose’s good friend Steve, one of many solely Sāmoans within the Police, thinks of his father and homeland. Once we lastly see the raids occurring, the breezy guitar we’re so accustomed to listening to from Sione’s band melts into the sirens in a approach that’s successfully unsettling. Principally, although, music is a logo of escape from an at occasions unfriendly world; with Sione’s performances serving as a rousing starting and finish to the play.

Daybreak Raids appears to be like previous the historical past books with heat and hope, emphasising the resilience of Pacific individuals at a time when the state stood in opposition to them. Administrators Troy Tu’ua and Tanya Muagututi’a (together with assistant director Jake Tupu) have delivered to life a vibrant present that’s nicely price a visit all the way down to the waterfront.

Daybreak Raids is offered by Pacific Underground and Auckland Theatre Firm and performs at ASB Waterfront Theatre 16 August – 3 September, 2022.

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