Red, White and Brass: adapted by Leki Jackson-Bourke, ASB Waterfront Theatre, 18 June-7 July

Red, White and Brass is a story that needed to be told, first on film (screenplay by Halaifonua Finau and Damon Fepulea’i, directed by Damon Fepulea’i) and now retold on stage in this wonderful adaption by Leki Jackson-Bourke. It is a story of passion and identity. And how to be a fan.

It would be unbelievable if not true and has rightly become part of the New Zealand Pacifica story. Driven by a Tongan passion for Rugby  a couple of  dudes who’ve never shown too much get-up-and-go get the bright idea to get up, and go, and form a Brass band — the inspiration is the chance to get tickets to the Tonga vs France game in the  2011 World Cup. Unbelievable.

Its a story about relationships between father and son, and between Tonga and the rest of the world, but it’s not heavy. And it’s full of love, surprises and the unexpected. What more could you ask of theatre?

The set and its trappings are charming and don’t­ detract from the action on stage. Many of the shining stars bursting out here had been in the original movie. How much better to see them in the flesh. All of them were standout, bringing movement and a muscular spirituality. This show is big. As Maka, John-Paul Foliaki has all the right moves and charisma to keep us captivated.  Maka’s mother and father  (Sesilia Pusiaki and Jason Manumu’a) are played strongly and authentically. Pusiaki as  Elisiva in the Zumba class scene was full of Tongan Vibe.  It hit a spot with everyone in the audience.

The actors use their skill to bring us to the point of comfortably sharing their Tongan culture in the beautiful ASB Waterfront Theatre for the first ever Tongan play in an Auckland Theatre. The importance of the venue was acknowledged  by Leki Jackson-Bourke. As well as the stunning setting some of that appreciation had to be due to the acoustics. The Maamaloa Brass Band provide the authentic sound and exuberance of brass.  The audience went wild when they got dressed in their beautiful red and white uniforms. The colours are bright. The energy is high and the message is clear: “T.O.N.G.A!”

In the end it was more than just getting tickets to the game. It’s about realising the potential both personal and cultural and realising a dream. That story unites us all –  a story full of māfana (warmth)  and humour and it seems just what is needed on a wintry Auckland night.

Immigrant stories are about a struggle and living by your wits. But also about living with Heart. It’s important that Auckland Theatre Company keeps telling these stories that are both local and universal. It’s a must see for everyone …T.O.N.G.A!!


Tickets here.

Interview here.