Fresh Off the Boat - Pacific Underground's Legacy for a New Generation, written by Pacific Underground

A new generation of Samoan actors in Christchurch will feature in Indelible Ink a Play Reading series by The Court Theatre, and NZ Theatre Month’s last event.

Presented with Pacific Underground, Fresh Off the Boat written by Oscar Kightley and Simon Small remains Pacific Underground’s flagship theatre production that premiered twenty five years ago in 1993, at the University Free Theatre in the Arts Centre.

The story is set in 1990s Christchurch. Elizabeth welcomes her brother Charles who has arrived from Samoa to live with her, and two daughters Evotia and Ula. The fun begins with hilarious exchanges and traditional Samoan lessons between Uncle Charles, Evotia, Ula, their family friend Samoa and Elizabeth’s palagi boyfriend Mervyn. But life in New Zealand isn’t easy for Charles and he starts to question his family’s kiwi lifestyle.

Sela Faletolu-Fasi returns to The Court Theatre to read as Elizabeth since a year ago when her own company Tulou Production presented Matai co-written with Silivelio Fasi .

“I feel honoured. Pacific Underground opened the door for me in terms of theatre and gave me my first opportunity to be paid as an actor. They saw potential in the first play I wrote as an adult 11 years ago, (which was terrible) and watered that seed.” says Faletolu-Fasi who last appeared on stage with Pacific Underground in 2009 in the play Angels by Tanya Muagututi’a and Joy Vaele.

“Being a part of this play reading is a nice reconnection to the crew that believed in me before anyone else and opened the creative door for so many of us here in Christchurch, ” says Faletolu-Fasi.

Emerging Samoan actors Jake Arona, Talia-Rae Mavaega and Albany Peseta who will read the roles Charles, Evotia and Samoa, only last year formed their own company Y|NOT Theatre Collective and have since presented three plays, including a brand new play Palu as part of the Ē Toru Programme last month. 

Peseta also appeared in The Court Theatre’s Easy Money by Roger Hall. Roy Snow, of The Court Theatre’s stable also appeared in Easy Money and will read in Fresh Off The Boat as Mervyn.

At the age of ten Josephine Mavaega who will read as Ula, also appeared in the play Angels with Sela Faletolu-Fasi and in July played The Scarecrow in a season of The Wizard of Otahuhu at Auckland’s Q Theatre.

Tanya Muagututi’a of Pacific Underground was in the original production (1993 - 1995), and with her playing the role of Evotia was her sister Mishelle Muagututi’a. Twenty-five years later this is mirrored by the Mavaega sisters who are also Tanya’s daughters and who grew up within the Pacific Underground movement as musicians and actors.

“It’s great that under the roof of The Court Theatre, PU can continue to engage a new generation of actors and audience. I was in Fresh Off the Boat before I had babies, so our girls don’t really know the play only that their school had performed it. Actually, I remember Talia-Rae telling me her classmate showed her the Fresh Off the Boat book, as the next play they were studying and Talia-Rae pointed to the cover photo saying to her ‘That’s my Mum, and my Aunty,’. ” laughs Muagututi’a. The play was published in 2005 by the Play Press, and is recommended in the secondary school drama curriculum.

“When Roanna Dalziel (Literary Manager of The Court Theatre) read the play for the first time last year and loved it, to me, that’s a big nod to Oscar and Simon who set a standard back then. That standard had become our measure, so I’m excited to work with a new generation on this piece.” says Muagututi’a who will direct the reading.

“Sela and Y|NOT continue to bring Pacific stories to the stage in Christchurch. I can’t wait to see what we all come up with together because that is the legacy of PU and Fresh Off the Boat." 

Fresh Off the Boat runs at The Court Theatre on the 30th September as part of the Indelible Ink series. To find out more and book tickets, click here.