The White Guitar

October 9, 2016

I sat down with my brother, Gus, this morning to grill him on last night’s raw family drama, The White Guitar, performed to a standing ovation by hip-hop artist Scribe, his brother Matthias Luafutu and father John at the Napier Municipal Theatre. This was Gus’s experience:

I haven’t really seen something before where the cold, ugly truths of a family, the gritty bits, are the feature and strength of the story. It’s not a happy story, not a story of success. It’s really real, uncomfortable, and there was a sense of unease in the audience—some definitely struggled with the themes. These are not good boys; they’ve had to be tough people to get through their struggles as an immigrant family, the dark experiences of their past, and they’re still dealing with it. But no one’s family is perfect so everyone could relate to their story in some way.

The old man on the guitar, setting the mood – he started writing his journey after the Christchurch Earthquake when he began turning his life around, and his sons played it out, also their perspectives as kids, which wouldn’t have been easy for him to see. He gave a powerful speech at the end. You could tell this play was a real healing process for them as a family to go through. It was like a lesson! And it was dramatic, really well done. A totally different category than anything I’d ever seen before. People were pretty pumped up about it afterwards, but more sombre, shocked; more ‘wow!’ than weepy.

I really liked how Scribe and Matthias were flipping through different characters with this quick fluidity and total on-stage chemistry. They could switch just like that from heavy to light; from portraying one of them getting a hiding to banter on “liberating bicycles”, helping the uncle into his new house through the window because he “lost his keys”. This came across as unscripted, natural. And they rolled quickly with how the audience were reacting. Apparently they held quite a lot back.

Scribe’s very witty and there are some funny jibes. What’s really cool is listening to his music now, knowing the context that it’s come from. I’ll be revisiting his Crusader album.

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