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Where We Once Belonged

Media Release
The Lion Foundation season of

Where We Once Belonged

by Sia Figiel adapted for the stage by Dave Armstrong

Auckland Theatre Company’s adaptation and production of Sia Figiel’s ground breaking novel WHERE WE ONCE BELONGED won the “Absolutely Positively Outstanding New New Zealand Play of the Year” award at the 2008 Chapman Tripp theatre awards announced in Wellington on Saturday.

"It is a tremendous honor for WHERE WE ONCE BELONGED. I am just moved to tears that characters I conceived of more than a decade ago - characters that I struggled with and gave me so much pain in their realization - have made their way onto the international stage and impacted on people in the way I saw on the opening nights in Wellington and Auckland. It shows the universality of the human experience, in all its dynamism,” says the novel’s author Sia Figiel.

Auckland Theatre Company’s Literary Unit commissioned Dave Armstrong to adapt WHERE WE ONCE BELONGED in 2006.

“Sia Figiel's brilliant novel provided such a stunning story, characters and dialogue that adapting it for the stage was an absolute pleasure,” says playwright Dave Armstrong.

“The success of this play is testament to ATC Literary Unit’s excellent script development process. WHERE WE ONCE BELONGED had one two-day and one two-week workshop, as part of the Next Stage season, as part of its development, so was well 'road tested' before production,” says Armstrong.

The production’s cast and creative team were involved throughout the script development.

“The script of WHERE WE ONCE BELONGED was also greatly helped by the enormous vision and contribution of directors Colin McColl and Dave Fane, as well as the five fine Samoan actors, who added so much humour and authenticity.”

A sentiment echoed by Sia Figiel, “I am so so grateful to the outstanding talents of the actors Anapela Polotaivao, Robbie Magasiva, Joy Vaele, Goretti Chadwick and the completely fabulous Pua Magasiva!

“I guess it's when you grow up with the characters, you know them...and they played them with such truth and sincerity that I found myself laughing and crying and laughing again...almost as a flashback to my own childhood...that's how powerful those actors were,” says Figiel.

The Chapman Tripp awards are New Zealand’s only professional theatre awards. The awards champion excellence and new innovation in theatre.

“We're very proud of the part ATC played in creating WHERE WE ONCE BELONGED. From initially commissioning the adaptation to the play’s world premiere at the New Zealand International Arts Festival in Wellington,” says Auckland Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Colin McColl.

“Dave is one of our most prolific and talented playwrights and this award acknowledges that talent,”

Sia Figiel has dedicated the award to her late parents and her sons, adding "on behalf of all Pacific peoples living in Aotearoa and in the Islands...this is win is a bridge...a bridge of understanding between our peoples...yet, there is still so much that needs to be done...”

WHERE WE ONCE BELONGED was commissioned by Auckland Theatre Company and co-produced with New International Arts Festival. The production played a season in Wellington in March and Auckland in April.


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