Actor returns to childhood roots
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.