Welcome return to Dunedin for award-winning show

Performing Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, which will feature in the 2021 Dunedin Arts Festival, are...
Performing Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, which will feature in the 2021 Dunedin Arts Festival, are Ilaisaane Green (centre on chair) and Petmal Lam (right). Photo: Matt Grace.
"An unapologetic, sometimes humorous, sometimes confronting feast for the eyes, ears and soul."

That is how Wild Dogs Under My Skirt producer Victor Rodger describes the award-winning show which will feature in the 2021 Dunedin Arts Festival this month.

A cast of six Pasifika actors will explain what it is to be a Samoan woman while challenging perceptions of culture, life and love.

Mr Rodger said Wild Dogs began as a one-woman show by his cousin, Tusiata Avia, based on her first collection of poetry of the same name.

"She toured it around the world for seven years, then put it to bed."

It was revived in 2015, when he did a play reading of it with six actors. The production has now been touring since 2016.

Mr Rodger said female Pasifika narratives were rare. Wild Dogs Under My Skirt was an opportunity to change that.

"[In the show] women are front and centre, versus being ‘the girlfriend’ or ‘the warm-hearted wisecracking mum’ supporting a male narrative.

"Here, six Pasifika women get to fully be themselves at the heart of the narrative, explaining what it is to be a Samoan woman."

Mr Rodger was looking forward to bringing Wild Dogs to Dunedin, as it was where Avia first performed a version of her one-woman show about 20 years ago.

"As the producer, and as Tusiata’s cousin, I love that it is coming to Dunedin ... And as a former Robert Burns Fellow, I seize any chance I get to come back to Dunedin."

The show has moved audiences both in New Zealand and in New York, where it played for two weeks at the SoHo Playhouse, in 2020.

New Yorkers raved about the production, which won the highly competitive top prize, The Fringe Encore Series 2019 Outstanding Production of the Year.

"[The award] came with an invitation to return [to New York] in Easter 2020 for a six-week return season, but Covid-19 had other plans for us as a company," Mr Rodger said.

The cast and crew have also received their own flush of awards, and Mr Rodger was recently made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2021 New Year’s Honours list for services to theatre and Pacific arts.

This season, the show will be down one actor - Stacey Leilua, who just shot the TV series Young Rock in Brisbane, Mr Rodger said.

The touring cast includes Polata’ivao; two of her former acting students Petmal Lam and Joanna Mika-Tola; Ilaisaane Green, who appeared in an Australian series The Commons; and Vaimaila Urale Baker, who made her acting debut with Wild Dogs in 2019.

Wild Dogs Under My Skirt is on at 8pm at the SIT Centre Stage, in Invercargill, on April 8; Dunedin’s Regent Theatre, on April 9; and the Oamaru Opera House, April 10.

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