A TASTY THEATRICAL FEAST
Written by Vela Manusaute
Directed by Vela Manusatue and Anapela Polataivao
Produced by Kila Kokonut Krew
at Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland
From 15 Aug 2012 to 24 Aug 2012
Reviewed by Johnny Givins, 16 Aug 2012
Toro King celebrates 10 years of Kila Kokonut Krew theatre and music in South Auckland and what a feast they have prepared.
In 2002, at the Musgrove Studio (Auckland University), KKK launched their company with Taro King. Now it returns home to the excellent Mangere Art Centre.
It has changed from a family meal into a bigger, brighter, louder and more theatrical feast of very funny ensemble theatre with great music. Lots of dishes are energetically thrown at the audience with a galaxy of styles.
The heart of the story is still the vibrant journey of Filipo (Aleni Tufuga) trying to make ends meet, working in an Otara Supermarket's taro section. He longs for promotion to make a better future for his wife, a quiet Sofia (Katherine Fatupaito) and his young son (a delightfully calm and loving Solomon Aleni Tufaga).
But Filipo also longs for home. Aleni Tufaga is the Samoan soul of the play. In English or Samoan he is honest, believable, funny, and embodies the legacy, responsibilities and obligations of Samoa culture.
The play moves, in the second half, to the house of Filipo's mother, Aiga, (Anapela Polataivao). She keeps control of her home and Filipo's 30 year old unemployed brother Ricky (Suli Moa) and his two mates – Sefo (Leki Bourke-Jackson) and Big B (Andy Sani).
This outstanding trio are wannabe Hip Hop gangsta stars. They rap and spout Americana with synchronised actions like PI Marx Brothers. The reason for the home event is farewell for the young brother Vegi (Albert Mateni) who is about to leave for boxing training in America. Their ambition is for him to become world champion, make lots of money and look after the family.
It is a wonderful ensemble production. The songs and choreography are stylish, funny and filled with energy. The ensemble supermarket scenes are a highlight.
There are several outstanding dishes. Vela Manusaute, who wrote the original play, is Sammy the Supermarket boss. Wearing a wild Fijian wig he is a super salesman, a selfish aggressive boss, a sympathetic friend and a con artist. He is pulsing with high voltage energy, demanding and uncompromising in his manipulation of his staff: the delicious Otara duo, Lavinia (Stacey Meilua) and Moana (Nora Aati).
Anapela Polataivao's Aiga is quick witted, with a certainty that “only me and God Knows”. She captures the Samoan mother love, humour, aggression and passionate materialism.
Alvin Maharaj adds the special spice to this production. He is a Fijian Indian immigrant. He sings Indian songs, talks to a camera like a reality show, and breaks into Bollywood dances. He provides an alternative Indian spirit to the show.
Troy Tu'ua has two roles: a gentle kind and self effacing “manager of the shopping trolley” and, in the second act, an outrageous Fafafine son of the Minister. He is arrogant one minute and dancing a bum shaking routine the next. It is belly laugh territory.
DJ JXN (Glen Jackson) provides the music for the multitude of numbers which burst into in the show like surreal povi masima (salted beef brisket) – tasty, well sung, great beats and a tangy finish.
There is lots of conversational Samoan in the script giving an improvisation quality to the story (especially in the scene about an overdue power bill – when the control room power went out on opening night. The audience loved it! )
The play is still set around the George Speight Coup in Fiji, which makes it feel a bit dated, especially when there are so many other Fijian stories with the same relevance. The story seems unfocused at times and the final scene after a climatic dance number seems more like a coda than the final dessert.
Taro King is an amalgam of drama, comedy, music and dance developed over 10 years into a modern theatrical feast. Some dishes are embellishment, some are just good theatre.
Taro King has lots of great dishes. Go taste the difference.
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