Te Pou Tokomanawa Theatre, Corban Art Estate Centre, 2 Mount Lebanon Ln, Henderson, Auckland

20/03/2024 - 24/03/2024

Auckland Arts Festival | Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki 2024

Production Details

Creator & Lead Performer Lusi Faiva
Director Moana Ete
Spatial, Lighting & AV Designer Rowan Pierce

Touch Compass

A journey of identity, desire, family, and what it means to be disabled and Pasifika.

Aiga (Sāmoan for family/whānau) is a groundbreaking and emotional Disability-led, Pasifika-led work of theatre told through the lens of the real-life journey of Pacific Toa award-winning, founding member Lusi Faiva.

A collective creative ensemble of women, non-binary, disabled, non-disabled, Pasifika and Māori identities brings this quest for identity and belonging to life, artfully sharing their own experiences with and through Lusi’s.

An Aotearoa story with universal resonance. An honest and heartfelt work that moves you, expands your empathy and consciousness and invites you to explore new perspectives of being. With a powerhouse creative team, this work features storytelling at its core; a story that will make you laugh, cry, think and feel – one that needs to be heard.

Te Pou Theatre, Corban Estate Arts Centre | 2 Lebanon Lane | Henderson
20 – 24 March 2024

Features Sāmoan, Te Reo Māori, English and NZSL languages
Relaxed Performance
Thu 21 March, 7.30pm

Audio Described Performance
Wed 20 March, 7.30pm

NZSL Performances
Wed 20 March, 7.30pm; Thu 21 March, 11.00am & 7.30pm; Fri 22 & Sat 23 March, 7.30pm; Sun 24 March, 2.00pm

To book access tickets click here for the Te Pou theatre website.

  • Child – 14 and under
    Recommended for ages 13+
    Contains issues of disability, historical institutional and cultural abuse

Performers: Iana Grace, Fiona Collins
Performer | Co-Sound Composer: Forest V Kapo

Producer Jordan Walker
Costume Designer Lindah Lepou
Sound Designer: Andrew McMillan
Stage Manager: Lucie Camp
Touch Compass General Manager: Jon Tamihere-Kemeys
Touch Compass Artistic Direction Panel: Lusi Faiva, Rodney Bell, Dr Suzanne Cowan
Touch Compass Education Programme Lead: Dr Vivian Medina
Touch Compass Access Inclusion and Outreach Coordinator: Alisha McLennan Marler
Support Writer & Intimacy Coordinator: Fiona Collins
Translation: Jake Arona
Creative Producer: Izzy Robinson
Stage Manager: Workshop #6, Fiona Saunders
Movement Consultant: Malia Johnston
Photographer: Jinki Cambronero
Videographer: Matt Gillanders - Archipela

Theatre ,

75 mins

Superpower - held in utopic limbo space

Review by Isope ‘Akau’ola 25th Mar 2024

Aiga(Samoan for family/whanau) is a disability-led Pasifika work from the voice and perspective of the mighty Lusi Faiva. This interdisciplinary dance-theatre production, produced by Touch Compass and wonderfully directed by Moana Ete, is both an intimate and grand retelling of Faiva’s life. She has enlisted a powerhouse team of creatives to manifest this touching piece of theatre and may a lifetime of standing ovations and ‘cheehooos’ rain down on you all.

As I and the other audience members congregate to our seats, we are all advised that this show will be audio described aloud for everyone to hear. I am first taken aback. Then I am surprised. Then astonished. Then excited. I think to myself, “Wow…this is what accessible theatre must look and feel like.” AIGA has been carefully crafted and curated to allow for all audience members to experience and enjoy the work. The staging and seating arrangement empower wheelchair users with the choice to sit where they want; and instead of being delegated to a dark spot in the corner – a special spotlight is shone on the sign-language interpreter for the entire show. The interpreter is held to the same significance as the performers on stage and it’s incredible to see. Audio describer Jake Arona, who does an exceptional job in his role, announces that there will be extra assistance needed for Faiva from stage manager Lucie Camp and that Camp will be visible for most of the show. We see Camp weave in and out of the shadows, and her presence is light and full of care – it is a pleasure to follow her ‘performance’.

Touch Compass and Aiga’s kaupapa to create a more inclusive and accessible theatre experience give permission for crip time to unapologetically be. Like crip time, the show follows a non-linear structure where time and space are put on hold. We are guided by Faiva and her talented troupe into a limbo space where her dreams and inner thoughts are revealed. This limbo space is utopic, imaginative, and hopeful. In one short scene in this space, we re-envision Faiva as a 90’s superstar reminiscent of the likes of TLC and Queen Latifah. I reckon the teine-Samoa would out-swagger them any day. In another moment, we also witness Faiva re–enact her life-long dream to sing in the coliseum. This vignette brings tears to many.

Faiva bares open both her scars and triumphs as she allows us to mourn, but more importantly, celebrate with her. We celebrate her life, her losses, her dreams, and her deepest desires. I applaud Aiga as it not only celebrates but reclaims and redefines what it means to be disabled, what it means to be a woman, and what it means to be Pasifika in Aotearoa. Faiva is both ruthless and relentless, yet also vulnerable and delicate, in her pursuit. I am in awe.

Faiva is also joined on stage by a fine group of collaborators – Fiona Collins, Iana Grace, and Forest V Kapo. These exceptional performers relish the challenges that Aiga offers, and it’s so empowering as an emerging Pasifika arts practitioner to see a cast of brown excellence. Grace is subtle and graceful like calming waves, and Kapo is lofty, cheeky, and full of spark like a cascade firework. It is also a lovely delight to see Kapo dance. Collins is revolutionary in Aiga; it is truly a masterclass display of her magnetic performance presence – she is a true shapeshifter.

Watching Faiva, Collins, Grace, and Kapo siva together was another tear-inducing moment. I do have to admit I selfishly desired more crafted moments of movement and interaction within the cast AND with the fantastic set, spatial design, props, and costumes. (A huge mihi to Rowan Pierce and Lindah Lepou for their amazing design and craftsmanship) I believe more opportunities could arise for these moments in the next season/iteration/development of Aiga.

I believe that Aiga,s true superpower is held in the utopic limbo space that the show operates within. I, as an audience member, am drawn to see these dreams, Faiva’s dreams, become a reality.

In Jill Dolan’s ‘Performance, Utopia, and the Utopian Performative’, she discusses the relationship between audience member and performer. According to Dolan, “perhaps part of the desire to attend theatre and performance is to reach for something better, for new ideas about how to be and how to be with each other… theatre and performance can articulate a common future, one that’s more just and equitable, one in which we can all participate more equally, with more chances to live fully and contribute to the making of culture” (Dolan 445).

These ideas that Dolan discusses are fully realized within Aiga, especially within the closing moments of the show when audience members are invited to dance with Faiva. My heart sings as audience members arise and begin to aiuli the taupou. The idea that audience members, myself included, are able to be moved to a state where we feel compelled to not only support the performer but also to physically join in is the most beautiful way of believing and dreaming in something together. Faiva’s dream is now a collective dream that in this moment we all hold together.

As Faiva glimmers and shines in the center, her grace and strength are enhanced by the way she is held by those around her. The audience, with beaming smiles and the loudest CHEEHOOOs, marvel at Faiva. We complete subtle movements and gestures towards her that are filled with alofa and respect. We bow, we siva, we sing, we celebrate, and most importantly, we dream with her.

Especially with the current social climate that both Aotearoa and the world are in, this moment alongside many moments from Aiga makes me hopeful for what our future can hold. A future filled with compassion, hope, support, unity, and celebration.

Malo ‘aupito Lusi Faiva and Touch Compass, and may the Auckland Arts Festival continue to program and support MORE HOME-GROWN works that are necessary and important like the beautiful offering that Aiga is.


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Boundary breaking on many levels; enriches our awareness

Review by Michael Smythe 23rd Mar 2024

Only two more shows – 7:30 tonight and 2pm tomorrow. Go! “Look closer if you dare” at this Warrior Queen’s multi-media ultimately exuberant exposé.

The unpretentious simplicity of Te Pou enables subtle shifts of perception. For Aiga (family/whānau) the ambient manaakitanga welcomes us into a shared space with seating either side of the performance area. We are in a fale witnessing a freedom fighter’s process towards hard-won self-expression leading to self-discovery.

For Lusi Faiva, living with cerebral palsy, severely limiting both speech and movement, has been mostly about battling other people’s perception of her (dis)abilities. The notion that cerebral palsy is an intellectual disability – as it was classified in her childhood – has been well-and-truly debunked over the course of Lusi’s 30-year career as an articulate and insightful artist. In creating Agia within the collaborative kaupapa of Touch Compass, of which she was a founding member, a deeper level of understanding and empathy is being reached by all involved – including the audience.

On stage Lusi is aided and abetted by Fiona Collins (also writing support and intimacy coordinator), Forest V Kapo (also co-sound designer) and Iana Grace. Drawing out and drawing in, challenging and challenged, playful and provocative, they share the experience of being with a fafine malosi (wāhine toa) intent on living and growing in her Samoan community.

Linda Lepou’s costumes add the right touch at all points. The potential of technology as an enabler is also on show. We hear that Lusi first pointed at pictures to communicate and then progressed through electronic devices of increasing sophistication. The Sound Designer (Andrew McMillan) and Spatial, Lighting and AV Designer (Rowan Pierce) with Director Moana Ete have employed moveable transparent screens and projection in a way that expands the boundaries of dance. Towards the end, live feed from a very mobile phone camera delivers fresh angles and insights including a delightful interaction with the sign language interpreter.

As Aiga evolves into sustained applause, the sense of shared experience transitions into informal Samoan dance. Boundary breaking on many levels, our evening of enriched awareness is tempered only by the recognition that including the disability sector in the government’s underfunding programme is a very false economy.


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