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NZ Fringe Festival 2013
Fatu Na Toto - Planted Seeds
Le Moana Productions directed by Tupe Lualua

at BATS Theatre (Out Of Site), Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington
From 18 Feb 2013 to 22 Feb 2013
[1 hour]

Reviewed by Jennifer Shennan, 19 Feb 2013

Fatu Na Toto, conceived and directed by Tupe Lualua, is delivered by a cast of 14 vibrant performers who declaim, dance, drum and sing the experiences of Tupe's parents' as migrants from Samoa to New Zealand. Just as the parents did, this work sails in a new direction, and enlarges the world.

The taupou, a much-esteemed female role in Samoan village life, is no doubt Tupe's mother… and her grandmothers.  As the voice of old Samoa, Tolua Lualua, delivering oratory, is no doubt her father ... and her grandfathers.

In fragments of dance he shows the strength of male presence, with his brief transition to the female's graceful style of siva marking a high point of Samoan performance for important cultural occasions. The rolled fala is drummed by TJ Manase Fereti, a powerful, impeccable timekeeper throughout.

Male and female contrasts alternate through the experiences depicted in dance, each twinned with a song, and interspersed with narrative in Samoan. Such power and such grace. Sasa and fa'a taupati, siva and taualuga …these forces are complementary, not in opposition. The occasional aiuli, clumsy clown, only elevates them in the contrast.

The move to a new country entails much challenge, well known to the many Polynesian communities now established here, and to migrants everywhere … secrets of domestic incidents, and the boredom of repetition at the factory bench. But the value of education for the next generation, often stated as the motivation for migration, is a reward for hardships endured.  Sacrifices and justification.

Tupe Lualua offers a measured take on these themes, accepting the way things are (the song Que sera, sera is beautifully rendered) and yet aching to capture and keep the best  of all that went before, at cultural and family level. She has triumphed by finding a way to harness the old dances of her heritage with the forces operating in the new land, and the newly choreographed sequences sit well within that context.

The dedication of the work to the memory of her mother is heartfelt.

The imagery of gardening in the title, with the notion of one generation composting another, rings true. Inside us the dead.

Credit to Whitireia Perfoming Arts, which has always encouraged the harnessing of  the new to the old. BATS Theatre is resourcefully camping out while their home across town is revamped. Wellington's Fringe Festival is up and running.  Talofa lava.

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 Raewyn Whyte