Ac­tor re­turns to child­hood roots

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By KELLY DENNETT

When Ali Foa’i needs in­spi­ra­tion for his role in Birds he goes straight to the source.

The 29-year-old is play­ing a char­ac­ter his play­wright aunt Dianna Fue­m­ana wrote about her son and Mr Foa’i’s cousin Solomon.

Based on the Fue­m­ana’s life in Avon­dale it fol­lows the story of Ni­uean teenager Tommy be­ing brought up by his solo mother.

Both in real life and on stage the pair has dif­fer­ing ideas about how Tommy should live his life.

The story is set in Avon­dale and fea­tures key lo­ca­tions such as the Hol­ly­wood Cin­ema, Rose­bank Rd, Rivers­dale Re­serve and Avon­dale Com­mu­nity Cen­tre.

Th­ese are all places Mr Foa’i used to fre­quent as a teenager and re­vis­it­ing the lo­ca­tions has brought back mem­o­ries, he says.

He re­mem­bers watch­ing the orig­i­nal drama un­fold as a teenager.

His younger cousin Solomon fre­quently skipped school and was even­tu­ally sent to live in Niue with his ex­tended fam­ily.

Al­though not a rebel like his cousin, Mr Foa’i’s par­ents also had very spe­cific dreams for their el­dest son.

They were hor­ri­fied when they learned he wanted to go to drama school.

‘‘They wanted me to be a doc­tor or a lawyer,’’ Mr Foa’i says.

‘‘Drama was good for a hobby but they said they didn’t want me to throw my life away. They didn’t want me to strug­gle,’’ he says.

When your par­ents have mi­grated from another coun­try to give their chil­dren a bet­ter life Mr Foa’i un­der­stands the bat­tle that can en­sue when ideas clash.

Since grad­u­at­ing from Unitec’s Per­form­ing Arts School in 2006 his par­ents got used to the idea of their son be­ing an ac­tor. They be­came more sup­port­ive as they saw the travel and job op­por­tu­ni­ties Mr Foa’i has had since then.

The tough love also worked for Solomon.

Now 24 years old he’s fol­lowed in his mother’s foot­steps and is a young film-maker who will also be be in charge of light­ing for Birds.

Pro­ducer Sharu Delilkan says the show is a rare op­por­tu­nity to see el­e­ments of Ni­uean cul­ture in a theatre show.

Younger days: Ali Foa’i, 29, re­flects on his teenage years grow­ing up in Avon­dale.

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