Still Life with Chickens

19 October, MTG, HBAF18
By Anna Soutar


Once I met a Jim Henson puppet – it was a long time ago and I was a wide-eyed young thing – the puppet was accompanied by a nice young man in a T shirt and Levis who seemed to be mute. The puppet and I talked for ages about life and love and the meaning of stuff. It was very nice. I’ve often wondered since who was the shy young man.

In this play Mama has a similar encounter. Mama is a Samoan grandma and her new friend is a rascally hen out to eat up her silver beet and taro. Together they face the companionship of life in the small garden where grandchildren chase the hen and Mama tries to eat takeaway chicken legs despite the hen’s protests as she copes with loneliness when the family goes back to Wellington and the old man shouts out his demands from the other side of the hedge.

Although the hen is a puppet and the old man never emerges from the hedge, this play is a two-hander, Mama and Moa the chicken. Together they talk about old times, family scandals, unresolved bitternesses, and the everyday life of the washing and the garden. Mama calls over the fence to her Palagi neighbours, keeping up pretences and hiding her tears.

Goretti Chadwick is a forceful stage presence holding the weight of this drama in her capable hands. And face and voice. The play comes from tales told by his grandmother to David Fa’auliuli Mamea, which he declares are “truthful but not necessarily accurate”. True or not, the play won last year’s Playmarket Adam Award as the best N.Z. Play of the Year.

Moa the chicken is as tricky and bossy and charming as any of her backyard cousins. And she too is accompanied by a nice young man who says not a word, dressed for the Auckland garden scene in a bright Pacific Island shirt. Haanz Fa’avae-Jackson is the name of the young man but he didn’t say anything.


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