The Freemans Bay Community Centre is far from an ideal venue for the performing arts: bad acoustics, non tiered seating, no lighting to speak of, or sound desk. It's a cavernous hall with no soul and a raised stage at one end. Add to that parking hassles, and only 2 handfuls of audience (I counted) plus a door alarm going off in the foyer, and things look a little grim to say the least.
Once inside the hall though, three mermaid-like Pacific maidens with waist-long black hair, contrasting off-the-shoulder long white costumes with white-chalked faces and arms, sit poised and give us their rendition, a capella, of a montage of songs from days gone by: Mr. Sandman, Pineapple Princess, Boogey Woogie Bugle Boy, and Hula Hands. The human jukebox Pacifika style emits gorgeous harmonies, clear pure tone and graceful gestures contrasted with stiff jerky ones. It is a strangely beautiful juxtaposition.
These are special guests The Dusky Maidens, and at the conclusion of their set (due to the third handful of audience being held up by parking hassles) we get an in-depth explanation of the concept behind their performance: the desire to bring about the death of Tiki culture - the sexualisation and commercialism of Pacific women and their music and song for financial gain. The informal relaxed info session, which in some ways broke the spell, is helpful in the absence of a program, and allows the stragglers to be seated.
LIMA DanceTheatre (most are graduates from the Pacific Institute of Performing Arts) then deliver Take That, physical theatre inspired by the likes of DV8, PUSH Physical Theatre and Polytoxic. In streetwear and ‘bro' clothes the cast take the teen world everyday life situations and infuse them with music, song, dance, mime and witty dialogue as the dramedy of four teenagers unfolds around the main prop: a couch. Samoan shopping, eating (the fridge), a crush, family relationships, achievement and failure, peer and parental pressure are just a few concepts that get the treatment. A favourite moment is Troy Tu'ua, (Mac) becoming Fa'afafine extrordinaire as ‘auntie' but too many details would ruin the clever surprises that just keep coming.
It is a laugh a minute; their ability to poke fun at themselves and Pacific culture is clever and simply hilarious. Otto Mateo's (Flipa) comical faux accent and relationship with his mother is definitely worth a mention. Suivai Autagavia (Val) nailed her guitar/vocal solo and the entire cast ‘bring it' in the no frills arena. They light the stage themselves with their energy and skill right across the disciplines.
Casey (music tech) sitting on steps stage left works the ‘boom box' to accompany the dancing. Adolf Hoeft's (Ox) slick hip hop moves to a remix of Beethoven's Moonlight sonata and Treysongz Yo' Side of the bed. His pops, locks, drops and ‘iso's' earn him favour with “the big dogs” and his slick style comes with humorous and imaginative twists. Antagavaia, Cherish Gibson (Cousin T) and Tu'ua are more serious in their contemporary sequences to Romeo by Styks and Clocks by Coldplay and there are some nice individual touches with a Pacific feel. There could be even more individualised vocabulary and dynamic variation particularly in the first contemporary section to give originality in serious moments.
Only the most talented, focused, and committed of entertainers could pull off such a delightful and captivating show in this environment, even with the enthusiastic response from us. They deserve a bigger audience, and a better platform for their dynamic performance. They bring spark, soul and joy into the space. If anything ails you, you'll forget all about it for the duration of Take That. It's medicine for your funny bone that I take gladly. In light of recent events the lighthearted feeling it engenders is more than welcome.
The promotional description “Raw and funky fresh” is no exaggeration: I can't say it better than that and I can't wait to see what LIMA Dance Theatre bring us next. Dare I say it: They are Sick As.
If you didn't take time off this afternoon and get down to see it with hundreds of high school kids then catch the Friday evening 7-8 pm performance. You won't regret it.
see also earlier review of MIXED NUTS which included Take That!
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