Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Suli Moa’s ‘Burning Opinion’ to debut at the Auckland Fringe Festival.

PHOTO: Auckland Live
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Alice Lolohea | Reporter/Director/Videographer

It’s been 14 years since the town of Nuku’alofa, Tonga, was engulfed in flames and black smoke, as locals took to the streets, setting fire to businesses and buildings to protest Parliament’s inaction on democratic election reform.

The riots of 2006, otherwise known as Black Thursday, have yet to fade from the memories of Tongans including Tongan playwright Suli Moa. Preparing for the debut of his new play Burning Opinion, Moa’s new theatre piece centres on events leading up to the horrific event.

“Burning Opinion is a tale of choices, decisions, family and where do we go from here?” says Moa.

“Seven characters on different walks in life are brought together by Black Thursday. It’s my artistic response to what happened and how we all viewed the drastic actions that took place.”

The events of Black Thursday were deeply unnerving and disturbing, especially for Tongans who watched the horror unfold from their homes overseas, “I think for me personally it was the disbelief of what happened,” Suli says.

“Never would anyone have thought that this could take place in what is known as the “friendly Island”. Never would I have thought things would boil over like it did. Exploring frustration adaptation were the provocations for this piece.”

There haven’t been many artistic responses to the events of Black Thursday. It has entered the annals of Tongan history, yet Suli admits it is a distressing experience that still strikes a political nerve.

Actors Losa Tui and Albert Heimuli rehearse scenes for ‘Burning Opinion’. PHOTO: Tales from the Kava Bowl

For Burning Opinion, Suli was determined to steer away from political undertones and ground the story with “inclusive” messages.

“I wanted to create a piece that shows inclusiveness rather than being one sided and I think that’s what created the division among our people.”

“I don’t want to fuel the fire, that’s not what this is about. I’m trying to show us working together, finding solutions, bettering ourselves as individuals as family as a community and as a people.”

Suli’s talent is renown in the New Zealand theatre scene. He’s penned a great number of successful theatre pieces like A Heart’s Path, No Man’s Land, Kingdom of Lote and Tales of A Princess.

Yet Burning Opinion wasn’t an easy process for the playwright, “I felt like I had to really dig deep for strength and courage during this piece. Especially as it is a traumatic experience for many. Reassuring myself that I had a duty or a service to my community and my people. Driving hard on the relationships between the characters rather than the event of the riots. Because the basis of this piece is people, not the riot.”

As the Auckland Fringe Festival revs its way into the city next week, Burning Opinion is set to open on February 25 during the festival run, “I think the fringe festival is a perfect opportunity to debut this work” says Suli.

“It’s a festival that embraces new works and new ways of working. And with our audiences, theatre is still a new concept to many, so having a platform where we as makers can test our craft is perfect.”

Tickets for Burning Opinion are available here: eventfinda.co.nz/2020/fringe-town-burning-opinion/auckland


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