Ambassador Review – Conversations with Dead Relatives

Heartfelt Stories from The Spirits Above

Circa Theatre; May 2nd 2019
Reviewed by Chantelle, Aotea College 
Written and performed by Phil Ormsby and Alex Ellis
Director: Jennifer Ward-Lealand
Duration: 60 minutes

Conversations With Dead Relatives explores the ideas of our ancestors’ influence and makes us question how much of an effect they should have on our own choices. The script is well-written, interesting and at times breaks the fourth wall which keeps the audience engaged and entertained.

The play is said to be a comedy, however I think it is much more than that. There is romance, heartbreak, adventure and drama throughout their journey through time. These additional genres add to the charm of the play, while not losing any of the comedy.

One of the most memorable and outstanding parts of the play was the Viking story. Phil Ormsby and Alex Ellis cleverly work together to tell this, committing to their accents and facial expressions from the very beginning, and while their incredible acting skills do help, their clear enthusiasm to be acting and working together is what really makes this scene fun to watch.

The exaggeration of body language, facial expressions, great articulation and commitment to accents as they retell multiple different stories with new characters is really what makes this play enjoyable and a stand-out performance overall. Through the play, we are introduced to multiple characters, which all have their own unique body language and accents. These character changes are made cleary to the audience thanks to the efficiency of their acting.

The interesting use of props (suitcases, plates, cups, etc) alongside the photographs/picture frames of family members helps to tell the story of these ancestors visually and utilises the setting.

Overall, this play makes me question my role in continuing my bloodline (as someone who doesn’t want children, it really shocked me to feel like I may have a duty to my ancestors to continue my bloodline), forced me to think about how much of our history is true or has been changed, and how much of an effect our ancestors have. I strongly recommend watching this heartfelt, thought-provoking and genuinely entertaining this wonderful piece of storytelling art.

Introducing the I Am Māori Cast!

Meet the cast who will be touring I AM MĀORI around Aotearoa! 

Celeste De-Freitas

Celeste De-Freitas (Ngāti Porou) grew up in Perth, Western Australia but has been back home in New Zealand for nine years. Celeste studied drama in year 13 at high school but it was an epiphany during her first year of tertiary study that led her to try acting.

She completed a diploma in performing arts and then found Massive Theatre Company, Auckland. She has been a part of the Massive family for four years and has appeared in two of the company’s annual shows, Chance to Ignite in 2017 and Sighting‘ in 2018. In her spare time, Celeste loves to chill out and be with her beautiful family. 

James Forster

Hailing from Naenae, Lower Hutt, James Forster (Ngāti Porou) is a Graduate of Victoria University’s theatre programme, where he also studied English Literature, as well as primary and secondary school teaching. James’ flare for drama was first ignited during high school lunches spent stage-fighting with his mates. His time onstage has since grown to include seasons throughout Wellington with Young & Hungry, Summer Shakespeare, Wellington Fringe, and various projects with his university peers.

He greatly values the many moments and experiences shared with the individuals and communities he’s been lucky enough to meet – Who have pushed him to grow, while also reminding him to stay patient, light-hearted and not to take things too seriously. He hopes to continue doing so with the many he is yet to meet.

Jonathan Morgan

Wellington based Jonathan Morgan is of Māori (Ngāi Tāmanuhiri), Irish and Samoan (Magiagi, Sapapāli’i) descent. He holds a Bachelor of Applied Arts: Performing Arts (Singing) and a Diploma in Performing Arts (Musical Theatre) both from Whitireia Performance Centre and a Certificate in Screen Acting from Wellington Performing Arts Centre.

Career highlights for Jonathan so far have been ‘Puss’ in Puss in Boots – The Pantomime at Circa Theatre, ‘Tama T’ in Destination Beehive, touring Aotearoa with Capital E’s production of Songs of the Sea – Waiata o te Moana, ‘Mabel Fa’afafine’ in the upcoming feature film Upstage and cruising the Pacific on-board P&O’s Pacific Dawn last year, as a Youth Counsellor. When not on stage or in front of the camera, Jonathan’s hobbies include reading, swimming, Kapa Haka, watching and playing sport, and spending time with friends and family.

Piimio Mei

Piimio Mei (Tuhoe ruapuni raua ko Ngāti Kahungunu) made her debut in screen acting in 2017 starring as the lead in an independent comedy horror feature film, My Lover My Lazy Boy (working title, release 2019). She has since been working on film sets both in front and behind the camera; sets including the Māori Side Steps, commercials and short films. Through I am Māori, she returns to theatre for the first time since 2010, when she played the lead in her primary school production.

Although Piimio’s focus and main devotion is now acting she has an extensive background in dance, including a short term contract in an American Ballet Company, a Diploma in Commercial Dance and a Bachelor of Applied Arts in which she studied Siva Samoa, Cook Island and Maori Performing Arts. She has also danced with renowned Pasifika contemporary companies – Black Grace and Le Moana. 

We are so excited to have these four young actors on board. If you would like to find out more about the I AM MĀORI tour and how to book a performance for you school, click here

2019 tour announcement – I AM MĀORI

Young & Hungry is pleased to present its theme for the 2019 tour;

I am Māori

Ordinary People changing the world

In the 50-minute no-tech programme brought directly to your school by Y&H Tours (A Country of Two Halves, OUTLIERS), I AM MĀORI showcases extracts from plays by Māori playwrights.

We are thrilled to have Nancy Brunning (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāi Tūhoe) as the director and dramaturg of what will be another excellent show for your Drama and English students. 

Nancy is an actress, writer and director who has won awards in film and television and has made a major contribution to the growth of Māori arts, including acting as a dramaturg for some of New Zealand’s most celebrated Māori playwrights.

Nancy says she would aspire her storyteller super power to be matakite/seeing into the future.

“Ki te kahore he whakakitenga, ka ngaro te iwi – without foresight or vision the people will be lost”.

The programme will touch on topics such as family issues, politics and land rights, with a common thread being ordinary people doing extraordinary things to change their world, no matter who they are or their background. It is the connection to their culture that gives them great strength to fight their battles and find the hero within. 

I AM MĀORI will be touring to schools around New Zealand from April 30th to June 21nd.  

The programme will feature at least one extract from a playwright on the NZQA prescribed reading list, with all extracts confirmed by early term 1, 2019.

Booking information and a proposed tour route are now available on the website. Booking enquiries can be made directly via programme administrator Natasha at [email protected] or 04 385 8227

Stay tuned for more information being released in the coming months.

Curriculum support

Along with the performance at your school, your booking includes a study guide with:

  • A master script
  • Playwright bios and play synopses
  • a digital filming of the work which can be accessed anytime throughout the year after the performance,
  • notes and information from the creative team,
  • and pre and post show activities and exercises tailored to exam requirements.

Y&H Tours (Formerly EnsembleImpact: A Country of Two Halves, OUTLIERS)

Y&H Tours takes New Zealand theatre to secondary schools, universities and youth theatre groups around the country. Created to support the drama curriculum, it showcases a themed collection of New Zealand playwrights, tells New Zealand stories, addresses issues that are relevant to New Zealand youth, and employs young New Zealand actors at the start of their professional careers.

Performed in traverse by four young professional actors, the show requires no lighting or sound set up. It is ideally suited to Drama students in years 10 -13 and has a 5-minute Q and A built into the programme.