Actress returns to direct Fresh Off the Boat

Original Fresh Off the Boat cast member Tanya Muagututi'a (third from right) has been asked to...
Original Fresh Off the Boat cast member Tanya Muagututi'a (third from right) has been asked to direct for The Court Theatre, leading the 2019 cast and crew.
Tanya Muagututi’a was in her early 20s when she was cast to play a key role in an original play capturing the challenges Pacific Islanders face when they move to New Zealand.

Now, 25 years on, the original cast member is back as a director for Pasifika production Fresh Off the Boat.

Muagututi’a has been asked by The Court Theatre to direct the show – which she first toured with her theatre company Pacific Underground in 1993.

Written by Oscar Kightley and Simon Small, the play successfully toured the country before heading over to Australia and Samoa between 1993 and 1995.

“I am pretty blown away to have been asked, I feel very fortunate to have been part of that early journey and coming to a point now where it is a new generation. I am honoured to be able to direct it,” Muagututi’a said.

She said the writers of the show are her old friends and to bring their play to the stage 20 off years later adds to the honour.

Set in Christchurch, Fresh Off the Boat focuses on the challenges Pasifikas face when they move to New Zealand.

Although the show was first performed in the early 90s, Muagututi’a believes it is now more important than ever the story is told.

She said there are all sorts of challenges faced by Pacific Islanders when they first move to New Zealand – from culture shock to language barriers.

“I think that is why it is such a relevant story today – not only in Christchurch but all over the world,” Muagututi’a said.

Muagututi’a said Fresh Off the Boat is a well-known story in the cities’ Pasifika communities.

“Twenty-five years later, this story is really about enforcing that Aotearoa and Christchurch needs to embrace all people who come here,” she said.

The show will truly be a family affair for Muagututi’a. Two of her daughters – Talia-Rae and Josephine Mavaega will play the roles of Evotia and Ula in the production.

When Muagututi’a first performed in the production in 1993, she played the role of Ula, alongside with her sister Mishelle.

In the new production, her husband  Pos Mavaega is the sound designer while her brother-in-law Tony De Goldi is the set designer.

While Muagututi’a is a first-generation New Zealander she shares a deep connection with her Samoan culture.

When her father moved to New Zealand between the 1930s and 1940s, children were told off and beaten for speaking Samoan and had to sacrifice their language.

Muagututi’a said she is hoping the production will inspire performers of a Pasifika heritage to keep sharing their stories and give them a sense of identity.

•Fresh Off the Boat will run at The Court Theatre from October 19 to November 9. To book tickets go to