The only thing keeping him alive is his children. Because when he dies, they'll ruin everything.

O le Pepelo, le Gaoi, ma le Pala’ai | The Liar, the Thief, and the Coward

By Natano Keni and Sarita So

5 MAR - 23 MAR 2024 — NOW ON



Auckland Theatre Company


2 hours and 30 minutes, including interval


Contains coarse language, smoke effects and violence

“This piece is beautifully written and directed.”
- Theatreview

A darkly comic exploration of the fa’a sāmoa, where family, leadership and legacy converge in spectacular chaos.

“You’re not going to live forever. If you cark it tomorrow, who’s going to lead?”

In Sāmoa’s not-so-distant past, Pili Sā Tauilevā is a proud Ali’i (chief) in the village of Moa. He has devoted his life to the sacred fa’a sāmoa tradition of service. When he suddenly falls gravely ill and refuses to name a successor, his daughter and son become rivals for the title.

In a sacred paradise where “your path to leadership is through service”, Pili’s dwindling light sends the family into overdrive to keep the fire going. But nothing plays out as expected when others come out to join the race.

Power, politics and tradition collide in this darkly comic piece by Natano Keni (Sāmoa/Aotearoa) and Sarita So (Khmer/Aotearoa). It is a commentary on the growing divide between those who have chosen to stay and those who have chosen to leave.

Using both English and Gagana Sāmoa, O le Pepelo, le Gaoi, ma le Pala’ai | The Liar, the Thief, and the Coward is a modern tale of a man who’s out of step with the times and whose time is running out. Who then will survive?

A collaboration between Auckland Theatre Company, Auckland Arts Festival and I Ken So Productions.



"Sparkling characterisations, liberal sprinklings of comedy and a remarkably competent cast."
- NZ Arts Review

"Vibrant, moving, thought-provoking and a must-see."
- Red Raven

"An epic piece of theatre impeccably performed, funny, and thought provoking."
- Andrew Whiteside

"This production is revelatory, not just for the cast, but for co-writers Natano Keni and Sarita So, the former of whom directs."
- Dramatic Pause

Sāmoan Translation

O se fatuga fa’amālie e au’ili’ili ai le Fa’a -Sãmoa, ma le gaogaosā pe a feiloa’i aiga, ta’ita’i ma talatu’u.

O vaitaimi e le’i leva atu i Samoa, sa iai Pili Sā Tauilevā o se Ali’i (matai) mitamitavale mai le afio’aga o Moa. Ua tu’u atoa lona ola ma le malosi i le tausisia o agaifanua Fa’a-Sāmoa. Na faaulumalō e leai ma se isi e sui tulaga ia te ia ina ua fa’afuase’i le ma‘i tigaina, ma ua vevesi lona afafine ma le atali’i i le suafa matai.

Na tofotofoina faiga mamalu e faasili ai le talitonuga “o le ala i le pule o le tautua” ma ua vevesi le aiga o Pili e saili se auala e faatumauina ai le susulu o le lamepa. Ae leai ma se tasi na mafaufauina le palasi mai o isi mo le fia pa'i i le suafa matai.

E fete’ena’i le pule, manatu fa’aupufai ma agaifanua i le tala mālie na tusia e Natano Keni (Samoa/Aotearoa) ma Sarita So (Khmer/Aotearoa). E fa’amatala ai le fa’atuputeleina o fete’ena’iga i le va o ē o mananao e nonofo ai pea ma ē o fia o ese.

E fa’amatalaina i le Fa’aperetania ma le Gagana Samoa le tala, O le Pepelo, le Gaoi, ma le Pala’ai | The Liar, the Thief, and the Coward ma o se tala fatu faaonaponei i se tamaloa e mau i mafaufauga tuai ma ua fai ifo le malosi. O ai a tulai mai?

Dine with TALA

TALA invites guests on a journey as they showcase the beauty of traditional Sāmoan cuisine and heritage through an innovative contemporary dining experience.

In anticipation of the show, TALA have created a lunch menu inspired by the play that explores the collision of tradition and modernity. The O le Pepelo Lunch Special is on Fridays and Saturdays 8 – 30 March. Ticketholders can enjoy a complimentary glass of bubbles on arrival. Available from 12pm to 2:30pm for $85 per person.

Reservations recommended. Spaces are limited.



Show Programme


Pay What You Wish

If you’ve never been to the theatre before, we have one night to give it a go risk-free. It’s first in, best seats, with the performance ticketed as General Admission. Tickets on sale 3 weeks before the performance on Tue 13 Mar.


30 Under 30

If you are 30 years or under, and love theatre, you can get $30 tickets to any show by Auckland Theatre Company.


Preview Performances

Save 20% on an Adult ticket for Auckland Theatre Company shows when you book see the first performances of a season before opening night.




Stay after the performance to hear from a special guest speaker who delves more deeply into the world and themes of the play. Enrich your theatre-going experience with a thought-provoking discussion and gain insight into the wider context of the work. Come intrigued; leave inspired.

Sun 10 Mar approx. 6:30pm
ASB Waterfront Theatre


Sensory Relaxed & Pre-show Introduction

Sat 23 Mar 8:00pm



Sat 23 Mar 8:00pm


Audio-Described & Touch Tour

Sun 17 Mar 4:00pm


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Creative Learning

This play is suitable for year levels 9 – 13, with a performance for schools on Thurs 14 Mar & Tue 19 Mar 11:00am. Workshops and supporting resources are available for ākonga.


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