The pursuit of love

Denyce Su’a (front left) with the rest of the cast of The Wholehearted. Photo: Supplied
Denyce Su’a (front left) with the rest of the cast of The Wholehearted. Photo: Supplied
Dunedin-born actor Denyce Su’a was never shy in a crowd, so it was no surprise when she followed her heart into theatre, she tells  Rebecca Fox.

Denyce Su’a.
Denyce Su’a.
Denyce Su'a did not realise her role in The Wholehearted would take her on such an emotional journey, a journey that would help her deal with her father's death.

''I've learnt to accept that it is OK to miss him; that it is OK to stare at old Samoan men and feel sad that my father will never get old like that.''

She is grateful to Massive Company - the contemporary physical theatre ensemble company (formerly Maidment Youth Theatre) - for providing a ''safe space'' for those sort of emotional journeys to take place and for being her ''saving grace'' when her father passed.

''Devising and telling stories on stage is how I keep his memory alive. It is very powerful, comforting to me.''

Her father also played a big part in her journey towards acting.

A church minister who trained at Knox Theological College in Dunedin - he also met and married Denyce's mother in the city - he often called on his daughter to read plays or Bible readings in church.

''I was never shy in a crowd of people. I was that weird kid who loved to do speeches, who loved an audience to perform in front of.''

So when she went to university to train as a teacher she continued to act and, in her second year, joined Massive Company.

''I'm very thankful to them. They are hugely responsible for my love for performance.''

The Wholehearted is a devised theatre piece which requires its actors to spend a few months collecting ''data'' about what it meant to be wholehearted in everyday lives from family, friends and the community.

''We brought all that info together and weaved the show together around being wholehearted, what being wholehearted meant.''

The play is about a mix of characters who tenderly and humorously share their search for a wholehearted way of life, exploring what people do in the pursuit of love and how love changes us.

''The beauty about being wholehearted is being vulnerable, not scared or embarrassed about what people think. It's about goodness, vulnerability and openness.''

The performance premiered at Auckland's Q Theatre and Mangere Arts Centre - Nga Tohu o Uenuku last year, and reviews described it as ''joyous, poignant, hilarious and expressive'', ''relatable, humoristic'' and ''resonant''.

She hopes that after seeing the play people will think about whether or not they are being wholehearted in their lives.

The work is under the co-direction of Massive Company's Artistic Director Sam Scott and long-time company member Scotty Cotter.

''In this tricky topsy-turvy world of ours, The Wholehearted is a great antidote. This show is transformative and fills its audiences with joy and hope about living,'' Scott said.

The Wholehearted tour of New Zealand is Su'a's first, so she is very excited and nervous, too. It is a break from her day job teaching year 12 and 13 pupils in Auckland.

''I'm just super thrilled to be touring, and stoked to be coming to Dunedin.''

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