The 49 prisoners were treated to the performance of selected scenes from the play ‘The White Guitar’, by Wellington Performance Company The Conch Team, and found many parallels between their own lives and the characters in the play.
The White Guitar is an epic narrative starting in 1948 Samoa, through to Christchurch in 2011, and concluding in the present day. It covers the true story told by a father, Fa’amoana John Luafutu, and his two sons Mathias and Malo (“Scribe”).
In the play, John leaves his village in Samoa as a young boy with his parents in search of better life in New Zealand. The challenges of living in New Zealand lead him to become a ward of the state, gang membership, drug and alcohol addiction, and eventually prison. This is what motivated John to perform at Spring Hill Corrections Facility.
As the tale continues, Mathias follows his father’s footsteps, ending up in prison before joining up with Jim Moriaty’s theatre group. He turns his life around performing on television and in films, while the youngest boy Malo, the celebrated hip-hop artist known as ‘Scribe’, finds hope in music.
Mathias and Malo collaborated with their father to create the script for the play which was directed by Nina Nawalowalo supported by Associate Director (her husband) Tom McGrory.
The prisoners who attended the event, appreciated the opportunity to watch some of the scenes from the 90 minute show. The story resonated strongly with the audience due to the relevance to their own life experiences, with one audience member stating:
“Their story is the same as mine.”
The men were extremely grateful for the willingness of the team to take the time from their busy NZ tour to share the story, says Prison Director Chris Lightbown:
“Many of the men who attended have never seen a professional play before so it was a whole new experience for them. Being able to see the success of people who had shared similar backgrounds was incredibly inspiring. While the story underlines a realistic view of the challenges that lie ahead in order to turn away from a life of crime, it also provided hope and incentive to commit to similar positive changes.
“So many of the people in our prisons are so talented and their potential goes to waste. This play gave the audience a first hand look at what can be achieved with that talent, dedication and hard work.”
Following the performance John shared with the men his enthusiasm to visit the prison to share his story with them. He highlighted that while he was in prison he read a book called ‘Sons for the Returned home,’ which motivated him to write his own book: ‘My story; so far.’ He spoke about the positive changes he had made in his life, encouraging the men to do the same.
Mathias also spoke about how he ended up in prison and how Jim Moriarty affected his life for the better. Malo spoke about being the youngest, with the motivation to prove someone in the family can make it and the challenges that accompanied.