BWW Review: GANGSTER'S PARADISE at ASB Waterfront Auckland
The 'South Side' story is brought to life in a modern day tale where unity wins over division.
'Gangster's Paradise' is part of the 'Here and Now Festival' where theatre makers and performers are giving the opportunity to work with some of the best in the industry.
Having been part of writer Leki Jackson Burke's 'south side' school experience I can validate that he has expressed the heart of the experiences of young Pasifika people as they negotiate their way through high school. A determined mother, empathetic teacher, the importance and relevance of performing arts and young people who are willing to overcome difference and find connection in their commonality are all relevant themes well represented in this contemporary piece.
Establishing power through division, gangs and rivalry seemed to be 'the way' until the lesson of unity is learned.Central to the story is Jayden (Lincoln Forrest) who is well immersed and prioritises gang culture over his school work. His Mum (Bella Robertson) has other ideas and is determined that Jayden will stay in school. With the support of teacher Brother G (Onetoto Ikavuka) who has both empathy and hope for his students, Jayden finds himself in the school production much to his dismay until he claps eyes on leading lady Porsha (Ria Sionetali Rattray)
Porsha becomes a reason to make good until Jayden discovers that her brother is rival gang member Christian (Sione Pule) This results in trouble and 'by the rules' Principal (Zias Smith) shuts down the School Production. The rival gangs rally together and put on their own production with West Side Story becoming South Side Story. The performance of the production within the production is a highlight with some creative work that is both a creative metaphor and showcases the ability of the talented cast.
Hip Hop and Rap feature throughout the show along with a mix of interesting genres.
Under the creative direction of the experienced and well known Fasitua Amosa, the cast all worked hard to deliver convincing characters in this high energy production.
Accolades to Tewini Gregory, Letyna Leniu, Kais Azimullah, Elijah (Ella) Mavaega, Walter Wilding and Ensemble consisting of: Oli Mahieson, Kane Evans, Asha Haines, Isaac Hooper and Casey Pram.