25 years after its debut, ground-breaking Pasifika play Fresh Off the Boat is being reborn for a new generation at The Court Theatre.
Set in 1990s Christchurch, this affecting comedy follows Charles as he emigrates from Samoa to New Zealand to join his sister and her family for a new life that he soon realises doesn’t match up to the fantasy he was promised...
Directed by original cast member Tanya Muagututi’a, whose arts organisation Pacific Underground first presented Fresh Off the Boat in 1993, this production milestone is a real family affair. Muagututi’a is not only directing her two daughters, Talia-Rae and Josephine Mavaega, but her husband Pos Mavaega (Pacific Underground’s Musical Director) is the sound designer and brother-in-law Tony De Goldi (the partner of Mishelle Muagututi’a, who was also in the original production) is the set designer!
“It’s special because I’m working with my daughters – and they’re playing the sisters that I played with Mishelle 25 years ago! Who knew that was ever going to happen? When I was in the production, I wasn’t even thinking about children... It’s amazing.”
Alongside her two daughters, Muagututi’a’s cast includes Sela Faletolu-Fasi, Jake Arona, Roy Snow and Albany Peseta, all of whom performed in the rehearsed reading of the production last year.
“It’s special, because Fresh Off the Boat is being performed by and for a whole new generation,” explains Muagututi’a. “Back in the ‘90s, we were presenting one of the first contemporary Pasifika plays. This production is really about honouring the writers’ intentions – because the simplicity of the play and the messages in it really speak to the writing.”
Written by Oscar Kightley (bro’Town; Sione’s Wedding) and Simon Small, the play found rave success around the country in 1993, before embarking on a tour of both Australia and Samoa, with Muagututi’a playing the role of Ula from 1993 – 1995.
“I think it’s amazing that we get to put this story on The Court Theatre’s mainstage, back home for a new generation who may have never come across this play before,” explains Muagututi’a. “It’s very nostalgic for me.”
With plenty of ‘90s throwbacks to look forward to, audiences can expect an uproarious comedy that will also be extremely affecting.
“Audiences will enjoy the humour, then realise there are actually serious issues still relevant today. It’s not like it’s a new story – people are still coming here to New Zealand with the expectation of arriving in the land of milk and money; coming here for a better life. But is it really a better life?”