Theatre Review: Birds
Written by Dianna Fuemana, directed by Scotty Cotter
September 18, 2013
Tommy likes to think of himself as a cook kid from the ‘hood, living on a street of state houses in Avondale. His dad is absent. His young solo mum is determined to raise him with a good education and understanding of his Niuean heritage despite the distractions of life in West Auckland and Tommy’s own resistance. That’s a pretty moralising set-up for a play but Dianna Fuemana’s script builds a rich community of real characters, played by just two actors Ali Foa’i and Banca Deinafo, giving an insight into the internal and external factors of this local boy’s life. Birds is a piece of authentic Auckland storytelling. It traverses Tommy’s formative years in less than an hour, taking him from cheeky, confident pre-teen to troubled, exiled, sullen and fiercely loyal young man.
Birds deals with heavy subject matter but is never a dark watch thanks to the humour both actors inject to their well-rounded characters. In a slow-mo chase scene with the neighbourhood bully, Foa’i captures a hilariously drawn out facial expression of both terror and fun. Seinafo also has great physicality, sharply snapping from character to character with her deft shifts in body language.
The two actors handle the challenge of their numerous roles so well it would be nice to see them have the chance to play with more direction. All the action takes place on a black, empty stage under alternating spotlights. Some props, even a single chair, would indicate more of a sense of space and location. Too often, Foai’i delivers his lines straight to the audience – telling the story, not showing it – which can make us feel detached. We really get into Tommy’s story when the actors interact with each other, embodying bitchy schoolgirls, a randy dance teacher and wide-eyed 11-year-old and most importantly the solo mother’s battles with her wayward son.
The fast-flowing script bubbles over Tommy’s tumultuous teenage years but writer Dianna Fuemana cleverly grounds the play in that key relationship of mother and son providing an emotional heart to this entertaining tale.
Until September 21