29 Mar 2021

This content is tagged as Pacific arts .


A Boy called Piano

Auckland 1963, three eleven-year-old boys meet in family court. Two Māori and one Samoan: Wheels, Piwi and a boy called Piano. Made wards of state, they are taken to Owairaka Boys home. There begins a story into the heart of darkness, abuse and pain but also the remarkable resilience of the boys as they seek to survive through the power of friendship, culture, music and the light of the human spirit.

A Boy Called Piano - the audio drama from The Conch, is soon to be broadcast on Radio New Zealand. Written by Fa’amoana John Luafutu, himself a survivor of state care in the 60s, and Tom McCrory of The Conch; and performed by Fa’amoana, his son Matthias and two of his grandsons, A Boy Called Piano is a unique opportunity to hear this story live and direct from those who lived it. 

Building on The Conch’s kaupapa of harnessing the power of drama as a force for social change, this work gives a voice to the thousands of Māori and Pacific children who suffered horrendous abuse at the hands of those who were charged with caring for them.

Internationally acclaimed director Nina Nawalowalo ONZM leads an 8-strong cast for this audio recording made up of three generations of the Luafutu family to tell Fa’amoana John Luafutu’s story.

“John’s experience at the time of the Boys Homes in the 1960s - the impact that had on this country - the vulnerability of children who are put into care and have trust, and have that broken, and what that does to a child. These are the reasons that I wanted to tell this story… This is the first time the experience of those in state care has come directly to New Zealand listeners, told by a man who lived it,” said Nina Nawalowalo ONZM, Artistic Director of The Conch.

The Luafutu family and The Conch began their collaborative journey together in 2016. Out of this came award winning work The White Guitar, directed by Nina Nawalowalo and Jim Moriarty and featuring Fa’amoana and his sons Matthias Luafutu and renowned hip hop artist, Scribe. The White Guitar was met with rapturous audience responses and successfully toured New Zealand through 9 cities in 2017. 

“The story of The White Guitar was an immense journey, which had a huge impact on audiences. In the process of taking Fa’amoana, Malo (Scribe) and Matthias’ huge lives and translating that into 90 minutes of theatre meant so many amazing stories were left untold. One of those which stayed with us was Fa’amoana’s story of his experiences as a ward of the state,” added Tom McCrory, Writer and Executive Producer of The Conch.

It was clear to The Conch that this was an untold and hidden story, which had to be brought into the light. In 2018, development began on A Boy Called Piano and the play was first seen at BATS Theatre Wellington in 2019, where it was met with critical acclaim and nightly standing ovations.

At a seminal moment when the government was at long last launching an Inquiry into the abuse of children in state care, Fa’amoana courageously chose to tell his story. It was the very first time a survivor had spoken out in his own voice and on his own terms, partnering with The Conch and Nina Nawalowalo’s unique brand of visual magic to convey his story, reaching deep into the hearts of all who saw it.

The play was set to tour the country when COVID-19 struck. So, The Conch pivoted and seized the opportunity to tell the story in audio form, partnering with PANNZ & RNZ to create this audio drama, bringing Fa’amoana’s incredible story to a huge new audience - who may never have had access to the story otherwise.

“As a state ward Radio New Zealand was a lifesaver to me; it brought me the music which fed my soul. Amazing to be here at 66 years old telling the truth of those times through the same medium. May that truth set us free,” said Fa’amoana Luafutu.

A Boy Called Piano will be broadcast on Radio New Zealand’s Standing Room Only, Sunday 2nd May at 3pm. The audio drama will also be available on RNZ’s website until Sunday 16th May.


For media enquiries:

Katherine Wyeth | Associate Producer, The Conch 
M: 021 1888 002 E: katherine@theconch.co.nz