Still Life With Goretti Chadwick - Q&A

In her first solo show on stage, New Zealand-born Samoan actor, writer, director and, interestingly enough, soap-maker, GORETTI CHADWICK plays her most challenging role. But it’s not one she’s chickening out of as she talks to LAUMATA LAUANO about Still Life With Chickens, her gafa (pedigree, ancestors, descent) and taking the show nationwide



What’s your makeup?


My dad is English-Samoan, which is where the Chadwick comes from, and mum is Samoan-German. All of my siblings all look like different parts of the United Nations. I’m the darkest in my family. My brother and sister have got the latte skin and hazel eyes – and I got the contact lenses. I’m also married to a palagi, so his family are my family.


What are your Samoan villages and where are you from in New Zealand?


Mum is originally from Nofoali’i and dad from Taufusi, but they’ve now bought their own private, humble little piece of land in Vaitele. Born and bred in Auckland, I was central, then the shore and only moved out west when I married a leoleo (cop).


What made you pursue acting?


I wasn’t really interested in acting, but in my final year at Auckland Girls Grammar, an amazing drama and media studies tutor took me under his wing. He came over to our house and said to mum and dad they should put me through to drama school. My teacher was Max Cryer (well-known New Zealand entertainer). My early acting career has been guided by older palagi men, first Max Cryer, then Murray Hutchinson, who was my course director, then Raymond Hawthorne. They’re my three wise men.


What made you take the role of Mama in Still Life With Chickens?


It was a really nice, fun piece, but also quite sad, too. It’s based around a Samoan mother in her 80s, she talks to her garden, her vegetables and then this chicken. It’s really about loneliness and reminded me of my own grandmother, but it’s hilarious.


How relatable is it to you?


Very, not only for Pacific, but palagi elderly as well. The family dynamics change as you get older. You start out with your parents around you. Then comes your teenage years and then the young adult years when you don’t want to be around your family. All the elderly woman’s family leave Auckland and it’s just her and the old man. It’s sad, but has its lovely moments because it’s not preachy. It’s a window into what it looks like when you’re lonely and elderly.


You write and direct. Which do you enjoy the most?


I’ve written a play and write for Fresh, the TV Show. I write the little myths and legends. The stuff that Pani & Pani or Pani & Tofiga do on Fresh, we improvise. I’ve come to love writing. I’m a novice who still doesn’t know what I’m doing, but it’s exciting.


If you weren’t in the entertainment industry what would you be doing?


Making soap, believe it or not. I actually started my own store. I get eczema, so five years ago I started researching and got rid of stuff like body wash. I made it for the house but then friends came over and asked for it. Now I’m completely lost in my world of soap-making.


What’s the most rewarding aspect of your acting career?


Seeing how the Pacific arts have evolved. We were invisible, then became visible, although some started operating in their own little silos. I love Pacific theatre and being amongst other theatre communities. I’m passionate about gafa, our ancestry, and so if we’re honouring the gafa of theatre, then it’s palagi, it’s their history. If we go, ‘this is our world’ and leave the others, you’re sending the wrong message. This show is a beautiful marriage. The play's written by D.F.Mamea and directed by Fasitua Amosa, both Samoasn, I’m Samoan, and the other puppeteer is Niuean. But it’s in association with ATC (Auckland Theatre Company) and our community outreach partner ASB, predominantly palagi companies, who are letting us do our thing. That’s cool.


Why should people come see this show?


They can have a good laugh and also understand that sometimes, when we follow the dream, there are people that we unintentionally leave behind. What’s beautiful about this show is it doesn’t preach to people. And usually with Samoan theatre it’s always a big ensemble which is beautiful and colourful but I think they’ll be surprised by how a solo show can fill the same space- the same way a full ensemble cast does. And how many shows do you know of where there’s a chicken that you’re not eating?


The tour:


Mangere Arts Centre 8-14 March, ASB Waterfront Theatre 17-24 March, Palmerston North 7-15 April, Circa in Wellington May 8-June 2, Taupo for a couple of days in July.


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