21/08/2020 - 25/08/2020

Nelson Fringe Festival 2020

Production Details

David Attenborough, at 90, vividly recalls a mysterious event many years earlier on the remote Fijian island of Koro, unaware that on the other side of the world a young islander has the answer to the question he has always longed to know.

Nelson Fringe Festival 2020 
Adopted by Louise Douglas

Available online from the 21st to the 25th of August

Note: This show has been filmed and will be presented online.
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Lelea – Luseane Uia
Vaea – Brandon Tohovaka
David – Frog Twissell

Script Consultant – Kasaya Manulevu
Cultural Advisor – Maggie Dokonivalu
Stage Manager – Zander Gifford   
Producer – Jo Eaglestone

Webcast , Theatre ,

18 mins

Well worth addressing

Review by John Smythe 22nd Aug 2020

Writer and director Monica Pausina (who also directed St Brigid’s Eve in the festival) has captured multiple layers of history, myth and legend in this cleverly conceived playlet, Attenborough’s Question.  

In a speech to mark his 90th birthday, Sir David Attenborough recalls a story he heard and investigated on A frustratingly brief visit to the Fijian island of Koro. Then a 27 year-old naturalist – lithe, barefoot, given to swimming under water and anxiety-free – he was fascinated by the story of the turtle and the shark so took a boat to investigate.

The titular question arises from his observing an extraordinary phenomenon, as described in the story, but not having the time to validate it with scientific rigour – to his lifelong regret.

Frog Twissell (known to some in Nelson as a stand-up comic) takes the role of Sir David and surprisingly makes no effort to capture the quietly urgent energy and rhythm we all know so well.

As his anecdote is told, however the lights cross-fade to Vaea, played by Brandon Tohovaka, who shares his observation of the strange ways of the Europeans and tells the story of three brothers, one of whom claimed Koro, and what became of that man and his wife.

Tohovaka’s constant moving from foot to foot is a little disconcerting at first until I decide he’s evoking the lapping of the sea. When he launches into Fijian, however, to summon the creatures, he is totally present in his body and the space, owning the stage.

The woman who says she has the answer is Lelea – played by Luseane Uia. She has been quietly reading a book in the shadows: young Attenborough’s Journeys to the Other Side of the World (from Madagascar and New Guinea to the Pacific Islands and the Northern Territory of Australia). She acquired it from tourists and has discovered her great great grandfather (Vaea?) gets a mention. Well focussed in presenting her perspective, Uia also comes fully into her own when she speaks in Fijian.

As Attenborough muses on the difference between the joyful, generous and emotionally expressive Islanders and dull grey England and the English, where the only respite is from stained glass windows in a cathedral, Lelea muses on what has changed and what remains timeless in her world – subtly referencing the climate change issues that are now the nonagenarian’s prime focus.

All this in just 18 minutes. Attenborough’s Question is well worth addressing – and I look forward to more of Monica Pausina’s work. 


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