Sieni Leo’o Olo is one of the stars of Massive Company’s The Island. The new play sees six young performers share tender and funny stories as they navigate their way through what it means to grow up on islands. It’s playing at Mangere Arts Centre before heading to Stirling, Scotland, for the National Theatre Scotland’s Exchange Festival.

We caught up with Sieni ahead of the Auckland season of The Island.


How would you describe The Island?

The Island is a show about us! It’s about who we are and the ingredients that have made us; are making us. We also explore who we are as New Zealanders and what The Island is for each of us.


What has been the biggest challenge working on it?

A lot of things challenge me but in a good way! They’re challenges that help better me. I think one of my biggest challenges was pushing through and still having the same level of attack when it’s 10 at night and we’re still rehearsing. When we first started, I had to push my body to keep going and now during the night rehearsals I can push even further than when I first started.


Tell us a bit about your character.

I love that we play ourselves in the show. We get to bring different qualities to the stage! In terms of characters, if we’re not playing ourselves we’re playing characters from each other’s stories. At one point I play one of the cast member’s German grandmothers and I think the most interesting thing about her is that she is so different to me and it was cool to explore a world that I’ve never been in. She has a beautiful soft quality that I love being able to play because I’m a lot more boisterous, so it’s awesome that I get to tell a story through this woman.


What are you most looking forward to about Scotland?

I’m looking forward to sharing our world with Scotland. We carry our ancestors in the show who come from different countries such as Germany, Australia, Samoa and other places. I’m assuming most of them will have never been to Samoa so I’m excited that I get to show them a glimpse of my motherland through this show. I also can’t wait to see what they’ve got to offer!


What does being a part of Massive mean to you?

Being a part of Massive means I’m part of this family. It means I get to work with people who push me to work hard as a performer and person. I always say this, and I will say it a hundred times more, but I haven’t been anywhere that works harder than Massive. I love that Massive has people with different levels of experience because we are always learning off each other!


Which actors/directors would you love to work with?

This is a hard one! So many to choose from! I’m already privileged to be directed by Sam and Miriama right now…I guess I don’t have specific people at the moment, but I love being in a space where everyone wants to create and work diligently. It’s so satisfying to be around people who won’t settle for mediocrity and that’s exactly what I love about Massive!

In the next few years I hope to one day dip my feet in the water and see Philippe Goulier, because I’ve heard so many great things about him and I’d love to go and see these things for myself! I’m also really in love with Chance the Rapper…I would love to meet him and create with him. I think he’s an amazing artist! He pulls on my heart strings with his love to do what he does…I think that’s one of my favourite things about him is that he really loves his craft and is so passionate about it.


What’s something about working in theatre that people might find surprising?

I think people don’t understand how hard we work. We don’t just leave the rehearsal room and come back to pick up where we left off. We are constantly dreaming and thinking around the show. I think theatre makers are walking notepads…we have to note take every thought and bring things into the rehearsal room that we’ve discovered outside of it. With Massive specifically, I think people would be surprised at how hard we train physically. We have to keep fit…and if you aren’t fit, then you need to work out how to get fit! In The Island you’ll catch the times where we are telling stories through our bodies. So I think people would be surprised at how hard we work! If you aren’t sweating right from when we play four square for warm up, then you are definitely doing it wrong. You need to attack everything! You have to always be working even when you’ve left the rehearsal room, you’ve got to always be thinking!


What’s your advice to young Kiwis interested in acting?

Keep asking questions! Go out and explore! Go to shows, workshops and anything you can. Don’t just say you want to be an actor and then wait for a role to fall out of the sky. Get up. Get out and into the theatre! No excuses. Oh…and always be yourself, unless you can be characters, be characters cause the world needs them. LOVE TO PERFORM!


The Island is on at Mangere Arts Centre from June 28 to July 1. Get 30% off your tickets by quoting tearaway when booking online. Offer available until June 26.