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The Conchus Season
emerging Maori and Pacific talent
presented by The Conch
Artistic Director: Nina Nawalowalo
Directed by Nina Nawalowalo and Tom McCrory

at BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
From 18 Aug 2009 to 29 Aug 2009
[Two hours with interval]

Reviewed by Lynn Freeman, 26 Aug 2009
originally published in Capital Times

I have seen the next No.2 [the solo play by Toa Fraser, performed by Madeleine Sami] and it's written and performed by Kristyl Neho.

Like Sami, Neho brings to life around a dozen characters - they're not quite as well defined as No.2 but pretty damn impressive. It's also a family story, centred around a grandmother - but this one has Alzheimer's and her children and grandchildren gather to care for her and decide her future. This is topical, credible, heartfelt and heartbreaking theatre.

Neho's multi-character singing of a Mormon song is one of those theatrical moments you know will never be forgotten. The way she captures the banter between siblings, young and older, is right on the money. But always at the centre of the story, as she is central to this family as the grandmother.

In a flashback we get to know her as an immensely strong, outspoken woman with a huge heart. This adds our sense of loss to that of her family at who she's become and what the disease has robbed her of.

Kasaya Manulevu, with the help of a puppeteer, also explores loss. This is the story of a girl shipped off to an aunt in New Zealand from Fiji when her mother dies. The island part of the story is told so simply and beautifully with a suitcase, some model buildings and a scrunched sheet representing the rolling surf. It works an absolute treat.

Manulevu shows great strength is her physicality and that includes her facial expressions - she doesn't talk in this short work, there is a taped narrative and a brilliant use of music. The conflict of being a Kiwi-Fijian was illustrated by a moving rugby ball, the two different national anthems, and Manulevu in the middle totally torn on which team to support - so she backs both. The last sequence using tapa cloth is lovely to watch but is too long and somehow doesn't quite come off. But that's a minor quibble.

In the midst of these two works is Some Things Can't Be Healed by Bandages, a dance work looking at violence against children. It's so topical it starts with a recent discussion on Campbell Live regarding the current vote on the child discipline legislation.

Here Princess Te Puea Whioke creates a young girl in pyjamas. We hear her parents arguing and swearing in the background while she's in front of the TV. Her emotions range from fear to grief to anger, powerfully expressed in a range of dance forms, from hip hop to tap dancing. There's something missing in this work, despite the dancer's onstage presence and total commitment to it.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 

See also reviews by:
 Hannah Smith
 Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] (The Dominion Post);