Still Life With Chickens - Review

Still Life With Chickens presented by Auckland Theatre Company in association with The Auckland Arts Festival written by award-winning playwright D.F. Mamea is as poignant as it is hilarious.  LAUMATA LAUANO, who caught opening night at Mangere Arts Centre, talks about the laughs, almost tears and the striking need to hug her mum.



Under the direction of Samoan director Fasitua Amosa, along with the talents of Goretti Chadwick and Haanz Fa’avae-Jackson, the play takes the audience into the little-explored world of our strong Pacific parents after we’ve flown the coop.


It’s a play about loneliness, family, friendship and what it looks like as our parents age.


In my Q&A with the play’s star Goretti Chadwick I was told that in a way that’s not at all preachy the play lets us in on a well-known secret, “when we follow the dream, there are people that we unintentionally leave behind”.


While I knew what she meant at the time, until I watched the play for myself I don’t really think I understood it. It wasn’t until I felt an overwhelming need to hug my mum that it sunk in.


It’s part of our Pacific culture to take care of your parents for the rest of your life as a ‘thanks for raising me mum and dad’, most of the time it’s why our parents have so many children.


Yes, most definitely the only reason they do.


However in this play, modelled on the playwright’s own mother’s experiences with chickens, we gain an insight into the loneliness that can come when one’s children have all moved away.


Mama befriends a chicken that she discovers in her garden and no the chicken doesn’t talk- this is real life! It’s a puppet operated by a strapping Niuean actor/puppeteer who’s very convincing as a stray hen.


We are privy to all of Mama’s outside undertakings from keeping her garden in order, hanging up the washing and chatting to her neighbours to every single thought she speaks aloud- including comments made about her husband Papa (Ene Petaia) who we hear but never see.


Goretti is absolutely spot on as Mama, you don’t really have to suspend your belief as such a young-looking actress is playing an 80+ year old, but Goretti makes it easy in her uncanny portrayal of many of our mothers.


The play can be ever so slightly intricate as we are privy only to Mama’s thoughts and soliloquys, and dialogues of which you only hear one side of the conversation- unless it’s Papa.


You hear Papa.


So you need to pay attention to her words as she takes us through her past and includes us in her present.


The slice of life story is honest and relatable no matter your race; although there is a lot of Samoan spoken none of the funniness is diminished if you can’t understand the language. 

Get along to a show, it’s on the last couple of nights at the Mangere Arts Centre but it’ll be on at the ASB Cube, ASB Waterfront Theatre come sat!

Still Life with Chickens:


Mangere Arts Centre: 8 - 14 March 2018


ASB Cube, ASB Waterfront Theatre: 17 - 24 March 2018


Centrepoint Theatre, Palmerston North: 7 - 15 April 2018


Circa Theatre, Wellington: 8 May - 2 June 2018