Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet and influenced by refugee and migrant experiences, Bittersweet was a thought provoking production. Described as a story that is about a love that is a taboo and a love for that which has been left behind and secret love for things unattainable; it explored the varying forms of love that can be considered a taboo.
As I sat in the audience and witnessed a story of two families that have a long history of hatred experience migration to a new land and two of their offspring falling in love, I couldn’t help but chuckle at how the story resonated well with myself, members of the audience and those participating in the production.
Initially I assumed the production would be about interracial love but it went over and beyond that to illustrate the different kinds of love in this world. The love that comes from being from different cultural backgrounds, different colours and having experienced different things in life.
At the beginning of the production we are introduced to the narrator who enabled us move from scene to scene as well as have a deeper understanding of the situation. The narrator spoke in Shona, which for me was my highlight. He used phrases that described the dire situation that was at hand. As the play progressed the characters explored difference in cultures by each of them speaking in their mother tongue. Personally, this was an illustration of how different cultures can live in harmony, side by side and with love despite differences. It showcased that differences are only a surface matter.
Throughout the play the influence of the different cultures was seen in the choreography and music style. It was beautiful to see all the different cultural practices pieced together in such a manner. It was absolutely incredible sitting in an audience and hearing the cast members interact with each other in their own language. Each time Shona was spoken I struggled to stifle my giggles as a sense of pride in my mother tongue bubbled from within.
After the production I had the pleasure of talking about Mixit and their projects with Wendy Preston (Mixit Creative Producer/Director). She spoke passionately about the organisation and their aim to empower young people. When I discovered that the show was created in 10 days, I was amazed and then that amazement turned into awe when it was revealed that some of the cast members had no theatre experience.
“The foundation of what we do is ensuring that the young people are able to own it. We create a creative task and put them into groups with allocated time. They come back with their ideas and instead of nit picking through them, we take all the ideas and piece them together”, Wendy said.
The production lightly treaded on one of the difficulties of migration that include fitting into a new culture, attempting to make sense of the new environment and the results of interacting with individuals from different cultural, societal and religious backgrounds. I remember during my conversation with Wendy stating that when you move from somewhere not only are you introduced to a new environment but you are also introduced to new people. While attempting to make sense of all the newness you are also attempting to place your cultural values within that context and trying to make it all work together. This can result in conflict as illustrated in the production when a fight breaks out at a gathering causing death or it can be a beautiful collision that leads to something new.
As I left TAPAC I was reminded that love knows no reasons, love knows no lies. Love defies all reasons, love has no eyes but love is not blind, love sees but doesn’t mind.
To find out more about Mixit and to support them visit
*Mixit is an arts project that uses creativity as a platform for empowerment, connection and for young people with refugee backgrounds to ‘mix it’ with migrant and local youth. Every summer Mixit invites a multi-cultural team of people aged between 13 – 25 years to devise a performance event. The end result integrates dance, drama, music and spoken word poetry. Mixit is renowned for their inspirational and vibrant annual performance events that reflect the dynamic multi-cultural mix of Auckland communities in the 21st Century.
A creative team of leading artists, including Mixit Director Wendy Preston with Tahi Mapp-Borren, Paolo Rotondo and Justin Haiu, work with an International cast of 25 young people from refugee, migrant and local backgrounds.