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Theatre Group Brings Play Back Home

PR:Theatre Group Brings Play Back Home

Elephant in the Garden of Gethsemane

Corban Estate Arts Centre

Friday, 13th December, 730pm

After a successful development season at downtown Auckland's Q-Theatre, West Auckland group Phoenix Performing Arts (Phoenix NZYP) is bringing their special blend of theatre back home to their base at Corban Estate Arts Centre in West Auckland.

For one night only they will play the last leg of their development season – Elephant in the Garden of Gethsemane on Friday 13th December at 730pm to what is anticipated to be a packed out audience.

“This is the last leg of development this year for the play and is an important step in getting the finishing touches, engagement with the local community and feedback before we take it to the next stage, which will end in a full season at Q-Theatre early next year;” says Phoenix director Jay Junior Williams.

With a cast of 25 and choral support from Avondale Intermediate School Choir, the previous two show nights at Q-Theatre in late November were both successful and a chance to see what the entire ensemble would look like on-stage and at full-bore. Williams continues.

“It was really emotional for me. To see everyone up there and bringing this vision to life. We said it was a seed in which we wanted to grow. But the response was, this isn't a seed, it is already sprouting. To hear that was great. Now we want to water that sprout and really see where we can take things.”

Elephant in the Garden of Gethsemane deals with some touchy issues; youth bullying, mental illness and suicide. The elephant here referring to the issue that no one wants to talk about. The reference to Gethsemane is a reference to the betrayal of society towards youth.

But Jay and his crew (Phoenix) are not approaching the topic in a preachy or even overtly obvious way. Jay explains.

“We use a lot of metaphor, rituals and ceremony. It's like something between dream and reality, where we see snaps of our main character Maui's life mixed with rituals and cultural references all pointing back to the essence of what might be missing in his life. His self-identity and security in that. But, no way are we preaching to anyone about how they should be. It's more just opening up the space in which conversation, thought and change can occur around the issues.”

Chantal Samuela, who plays one of the lead characters in this leg of the show agrees.

“I've experienced parts of the issues and being in that space and feeling like you are alone - it's hard. So if we can bring up a big storm and put up these issues we can say you aren't alone.”

Chantal continues,

“People come to us [Phoenix] a lot of the time with empty cups and we want to help to fill those cups up and hopefully there's an overflow which we can spread around...I think one of the cool things what we do as well is that the messages we're trying to get through to other people are also things that we've been through ourselves. We focus a lot on healing through the arts and healing ourselves first of all so we can go and spread that.”

This is evident in the community approach Phoenix has taken especially in this leg of the tour, bringing the play back home before taking it back out to the wider world. It's hoped that the night will bring in many of the community that Phoenix is looking to engage with as much as it is just another play on the theatre schedule.

Williams goes on.

“This is arts in the community. We want to include the community in what we're doing and not be something that is inaccessible. We see what we're doing not just as theatre but a movement in which we really want to make change happen and the only way to do that is to include those who it affects or could affect.”

Phoenix Performing Arts also works during the year with hundreds of youth right across the Auckland region where they provide a space in which to explore and discuss youth issues and find ways towards healing through the arts.

Elephant in the Garden of Gethsemane is the first major play by the group and runs this Friday 13th December at 730pm. Bookings can be made through Corban Estate Arts Centre,, ph: 838 4455 or email

For more about the play check the Facebook events page at -


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