Gabrielle Solomona on Things That Matter

Photography Sacha Stejko

Developed over several years, Auckland Theatre Company presents an important new New Zealand play, Things That Matter, by award-winning playwright Gary Henderson, adapted from Dr David Galler’s generous and lyrical memoir.

The play shares a story of humanity, mana, and resilience through a common thread of life-altering experiences in the corridors of the ICU at Middlemore Hospital.

There are some hard-hitting truths about the impacts on our current health system, actress Gabrielle Solomona, who is playing the character of Nurse Ana on stage, has experienced these hardships first-hand.

When taking her grandparents to the hospital, Solomona witnessed the different treatment they were receiving due to their lack of English, “I realised very quickly the issue of communication because English is not their first language and because of this they were being treated differently to how myself or anyone else who has been educated in New Zealand would be. They were given medication without proper explanation and being in the room I felt the doctor wasn’t attentive to them.”

“I noticed they had just been given temporary pain relief types of medication to ease symptoms as opposed to dealing with the root cause of the symptoms. So when I started to question the doctors on what the medications were for and other things it was only then did, they start to sort of ‘care’.”

Solomona was inspired to be a part of the play having worked with director Anapela Polata’ivao and Auckland Theatre Company in the past.

Although she hadn’t heard of Dr Galler’s book, Things That Matter: Stories of Life & Death the inspiration behind this play, beforehand – Solomona is very grateful and honoured for Polata’ivao and The Auckland Theatre Company giving her the opportunity to be a part of telling this story and so many other families stories that are woven into the play.

The more Solomona learns about Ana’s character, she learns more about how the current health care system is not made to serve Māori and Pacific communities properly.

“Ana is teaching me how much more resilient and perseverant she needs to be against a system that does not help her people or community. Also, how these inequalities don’t just affect the individual’s physical health but also mentally and emotionally. Inevitably, they affect the entire aiga (family) and that creates more ongoing issues generationally.”

Solomona says Ana’s story is the story of many Samoan women who are constantly silenced and belittled simply because they are a brown women.

In Things That Matter, Ana represents what it is like to be ten times more resilient than everyone else because of the systems built up against her.

“Ana’s story will speak to not only Pacific and Māori women, but all women who have to spend their lives fighting for who they are and their place in an imbalanced society,” Solomona says.

Solomona believes a change needs to happen in the health care system, starting with a change of heart and listening to the stories of those struggling.

The play will also show the audience another side of doctors, nurses, and health care workers we don’t often get to see, “I hope this show pays homage to them, especially our nurses and paramedics who are too often overlooked and underpaid for all the work they do and the grace so many of them show while doing so.”

Gabrielle Solomona performs as Nurse Ana in Auckland Theatre Company’s play adaption of Dr David Galler’s book, Things That Matter.

Things That Matter will be live at ABS Waterfront Theatre from 17th – 29th August, more information and tickets are available here.

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