Powerful tale of family, love and redemption

Wellington director 'thrilled' The White Guitar is coming to Gisborne.

Wellington director 'thrilled' The White Guitar is coming to Gisborne.

Wellington director Nina Nawalowalo. Picture by Phillip Merry

While The White Guitar might focus heavily on the relationship between father and son, it is a woman who is helping to bring this powerful tale to the stage.

Wellington director Nina Nawalowalo of theatre company The Conch has worked on the production alongside Jim Moriarty, in what she describes as “a very long journey”.

“My husband Tom McCrory was teaching at Toi Whakaari and Matthias (Luafutu) was one of his students. He came in one day and gave Tom this book his dad had written.”

That book was A Boy Called Broke, a story depicting the often challenging reality of chasing the migrant dream.

John Luafutu began writing A Boy Called Broke when he was in jail, after a psychotherapist encouraged him to reflect on his experiences around moving from Samoa to New Zealand.

“It was originally going to be a one-person show with Matthias playing all the characters. Then we thought, wouldn’t it be cool to get Malo (Scribe) and John on board,” says Nawalowalo.

“They all wrote their own stories in different parts of the country. Jim told them to write about something that happened in their childhood.”

“It’s the hardest journey for John I think.”

Interpreting and helping to direct such a personal story has been challenging for Nawalowalo.

“Looking into how you tell that story was a big responsibility for me — you have to create a very trusting environment. It’s all about trust and safety,” she says.

“The family are very brave telling their own personal story — it really is very moving.”

Story may be relevant to some families in this region

Nawalowalo, who lived in Gisborne until she was 10, believes this story will be particularly relevant to families in the region.

“With Gisborne there are a lot of gangs and a lot of negative things happening,” she says.

“This work shows the power of family, the power of love, and the strength of redemption.”

“When Tour Makers selected where in the country we would be going, I was thrilled to hear Gisborne was on the list.”

While Nawalowalo now knows the Luafutus’ story well, she still finds the on-stage interpretation compelling.

“One of the most powerful scenes is when Malo, before he’s about to break through — he’s in his room rapping and his Dad comes in and challenges him,” she says.

“It wasn’t so much that they were backing him with his rapping,” she says.

Nawalowalo believes the play has been so effective because of the honest portrayal of family interactions like these.

“A lot of young men connect with this story,” she says.

“I think it’s seeing the relationship of father and son on stage and looking at issues that are hard to talk about.”

“That’s why we’ve had such amazing responses, because of their courage and honesty.”

  • The White Guitar shows at the Gisborne War Memorial Theatre; October 4 & 5 (8pm).

While The White Guitar might focus heavily on the relationship between father and son, it is a woman who is helping to bring this powerful tale to the stage.

Wellington director Nina Nawalowalo of theatre company The Conch has worked on the production alongside Jim Moriarty, in what she describes as “a very long journey”.

“My husband Tom McCrory was teaching at Toi Whakaari and Matthias (Luafutu) was one of his students. He came in one day and gave Tom this book his dad had written.”

That book was A Boy Called Broke, a story depicting the often challenging reality of chasing the migrant dream.

John Luafutu began writing A Boy Called Broke when he was in jail, after a psychotherapist encouraged him to reflect on his experiences around moving from Samoa to New Zealand.

“It was originally going to be a one-person show with Matthias playing all the characters. Then we thought, wouldn’t it be cool to get Malo (Scribe) and John on board,” says Nawalowalo.

“They all wrote their own stories in different parts of the country. Jim told them to write about something that happened in their childhood.”

“It’s the hardest journey for John I think.”

Interpreting and helping to direct such a personal story has been challenging for Nawalowalo.

“Looking into how you tell that story was a big responsibility for me — you have to create a very trusting environment. It’s all about trust and safety,” she says.

“The family are very brave telling their own personal story — it really is very moving.”

Story may be relevant to some families in this region

Nawalowalo, who lived in Gisborne until she was 10, believes this story will be particularly relevant to families in the region.

“With Gisborne there are a lot of gangs and a lot of negative things happening,” she says.

“This work shows the power of family, the power of love, and the strength of redemption.”

“When Tour Makers selected where in the country we would be going, I was thrilled to hear Gisborne was on the list.”

While Nawalowalo now knows the Luafutus’ story well, she still finds the on-stage interpretation compelling.

“One of the most powerful scenes is when Malo, before he’s about to break through — he’s in his room rapping and his Dad comes in and challenges him,” she says.

“It wasn’t so much that they were backing him with his rapping,” she says.

Nawalowalo believes the play has been so effective because of the honest portrayal of family interactions like these.

“A lot of young men connect with this story,” she says.

“I think it’s seeing the relationship of father and son on stage and looking at issues that are hard to talk about.”

“That’s why we’ve had such amazing responses, because of their courage and honesty.”

  • The White Guitar shows at the Gisborne War Memorial Theatre; October 4 & 5 (8pm).
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