O LE MALAGA FA’A’ATUA The Journey of the Gods

Various Canterbury Schools, Christchurch - Canterbury

19/08/2019 - 13/09/2019

Wharenui School, 32 Matipo Street, Riccarton, Christchurch

11/09/2019 - 11/09/2019

Production Details


Māui is making his way into Primary Schools across Canterbury in The Court Theatre’s latest touring show, O Le Malaga Fa’a’Atua (The Journey of the Gods).

Created in collaboration with Pasifika theatre collective Y|NOT, this multi-lingual production will be travelling around the region, bringing the magic of theatre to thousands of Canterbury children throughout August and September.

Focused on the journey of Māui as he attempts to become a fully-fledged god, this inspiring show celebrates being the best person you can – god or not.    

“It’s beautiful, imaginative storytelling that will be really engaging and accessible for children,” says Programmes Manager Rachel Sears, who coordinates the tour.  

Y|NOT members Talia-Rae Mavaega, Jake Arona and Mana Tatafu will be bringing this magical, multi-lingual – and musical! – production to life, directed by Gregory Cooper, who has been involved in numerous Court Theatre children’s shows.

“We were inspired by stories we heard as kids,” explains Mavaega. “Pasifika myths and legends passed down through families.”

Taking three common Polynesian stories, together the team have created a fresh, exciting production that explores Māui’s journey in a fun and educational way. 

“Children will gain an insight into Pasifika Gods, myths and legends, will see local performers on-stage who are real role models – and will hopefully learn a little bit of Samoan and Tongan,” says Sears, talking about what schools can expect from the show. “When I watched it, I definitely learnt at least six words!”

For Cooper, the show’s Pasifika roots make for an incredibly unique and imaginative theatrical experience.

“We don’t get a lot of shows that tour to schools with Pasifika stories. It’s fantastic that these tales of Samoa and Tonga – and Aotearoa! – are being told.”

Sears, who helped commission the production, agrees. “It’s an opportunity to celebrate a culture and share that culture’s stories with the community of children in Canterbury.”

Beyond the reinvention of a classic Pasifika myth, schools can expect astounding music, the cast teaching their young audience beautiful Polynesian songs.

 “Each folk tale comes with its own song, so we’re injecting that into the story; using music that has been passed down through generations,” explains Mavaega.

Touring until the 13th September, there are still four available performance, with tickets just $5 per child, when there are over 100 students. For low decile schools, free performances are available thanks to the Pamela Webb Charitable Trust.

“This touring shows is important because it breaks down the barrier of coming to the theatre,” says Sears. “O Le Malaga Fa’a’Atua gives every child in Canterbury the opportunity to experience theatre.”

O Le Malaga Fa’a’Atua (The Journey of the Gods)
performed at Primary Schools around Canterbury
from 19 August – 13 September.
$5 per child (a minimum of 100 children is needed) 
You can find out more and book a visit for your school here.

Sponsored by: Mainland Foundation
Low Decile School Performances Funded by: Pamela Webb Charitable Trust 

Talia-Rae Mavaega 
Jake Arona 
Mana Tatafu

Director:  Gregory Cooper
Set Designer:  Anne Le Blond
Costume Designer:  Hayley Douglas
Stage Manager:  Erica Browne   

Theatre , Children’s ,

Bright, bold and witty

Review by Erin Harrington 11th Sep 2019

The Court Theatre’s current touring school production is a high-energy, big-hearted romp through Pacific myth and legend that marries song, drumming and movement with deft comedy. O Le Malaga Fa’a’Atua (Journey of the Gods), which is presented in association with the excellent Pasifika arts collective Y NOT, follows the adventures of trickster demi-god Maui. He undertakes a quest in the hope of joining the big leagues but is faced with a difficult decision: work for himself, or help others?

The well-structured narrative takes us through a series of episodes. Maui is first summoned by Tangaloa (Mana Tatafu), God of the Heavens and Nafanua (Talia-Rae Mavaega), the Goddess of War, to explain why he has slowed down the sun (amongst other misdemeanours). Maui is played by Jake Arona as a beat-boxing goofball who wants to become a full-fledged god – a populist ‘God of the Peeps!’ – but to do so, he needs to prove himself worthy and do something serious: defeat a monster.  

Maui must take on Tuna, the great oversized eel monster, who has long been terrorising the people, but he must also gather magical items from the sea and Hikule’o, the God of the Underworld, to aid him in his venture. This story intersects with the Samoan legend of Sina and the Eel, which explains the origins of the coconut tree.

The three actors offer big, vibrant and warm performances, hopping between multiple characters, and manipulating set pieces and puppets. They have charm for days and it’s clear that the noisy room full of kids – well over a hundred, of varying ages – love them.  I attend late in the season and it’s always a good sign when you can see that the actors in a show like this are still cracking each other up. They also do a good job of managing a loud audience, and a loud show, in a slightly cramped hall with pretty tricky acoustics. It’s not perfect but it does the trick.

The play is presented in English, Samoan and Tongan, and the performance I am at has an added element: New Zealand Sign Language interpreters, who are there to support a class of deaf students. A key aspect is exposing the students to different languages and encouraging them to think about bravery and self-sacrifice, and the post-show interaction session demonstrates clearly that the performers have been successful.

The production, which is directed by Greg Cooper and performed in the traverse, is also well designed. Anne Le Blond’s set design and Hayley Douglas’s costumes are simple and expressive, with some nice bits of flair; I appreciate that the self-promoting Maui wears a cap (backwards, natch) with his own name on it. There’s some playful work with makeshift sails, well-considered props and cubes painted in striking geometric designs, reminiscent of tapa cloth. The appearance of the monstrous Tuna puppet at the end is a crowd favourite. These elements cohere in deeply satisfying way, as we revisit the frame narrative at the end and see them combine into a large coconut tree. 

This is a delightful production – bright, bold and witty. It’s a real credit to its performers and creative team, and the children are lucky to have them visit.


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