24/01/2024 - 27/01/2024
Writer, Director & Sound Co-Designer – Kaisa Fa’atui
IndiGENIUS & Vain Creative
‘ON GOD’ follows the journey of Nafanua, the Samoan goddess of war, and Jesus, the Son of God, as they oversee humans on earth living through their trials and tribulations. Different ideals and personal grievances mean that Nafanua and Jesus are constantly at odds with each other. Will they find a way to work together, or will the world as we know it continue to suffer?
This new development show investigates Pasifika spirituality in both pre-colonial and modern contexts. Investigating religion through a modern lens, from the introduction of Christianity to the current generations finding their connection to faith in a society becomin increasingly more secular. Audiences will bear witness to a slew of powerful narratives that will tug at their hearts, inspire them to ask some hard questions and laugh the evening away. Spanning genres from comedy, contemporary and traditional dance to naturalistic drama, this show is supported by a wide genre of old-school and contemporary music, performed by some of the best emerging young Pasifika talent Wellington has to offer.
BATS Theatre, ‘The Dome’.
24-27th January 2024
Book online at https://bats.co.nz/whats-on/on-god/
Producer – Taylor-Rose Terekia
Production Manager – Hannah Taylor
Stage Manager – Olivia Cowley
Lighting Designer – Josiah Matagi
Costume Designer & Construction – Hellena Fa’asili
Composer and Sound Co-Designer – Ete Reupena
Marketing Designer, Photographer & Videographer – Havea Latu of Vain Creative
Luz-Eliana Folau-Tovine: Vaimoso, Leauva'a – Samoa & Hakupu – Niue
Tasman Kaitara: Onotoa, Tamana, Marakei – Kiribati & Fakaofo – Tokelau
Kasi Valu: Ma'ufanga, 'Eua, Lapaha – Tonga
Tamia Filipo: Fakaofo – Tokelau & Vaitupu – Tuvalu.
Maurea Perez-Varea: Nukunonu, Rotuma – Tokelau
Justice Tavita Kalolo: Ulutogia – Samoa
Kimiora Honeycombe: Ngāti Manawa – Māori
Seiyan Thompson-Tonga: Ngāti Mahuta – Māori & Aitutaki, Atiu, Mitiaro – Cook Islands
Cultural clash of deities makes you laugh, cry, think, and makes you so proud to be from the Pacific Islands
Review by Sarai Perenise-Ropeti 26th Jan 2024
There’s something magical about a brown story being told in a theatre space of Te Whanganui-a-Tara. On God has a stream of brown faces coming into a theatre in support of our stories being told by our people for our people. Six Degrees has made a habit, over the last few years, of nurturing Pacific artists in their Masters of Fine Arts (Creative Practice) course at Te Herenga Waka. This year two students of the MFA have collaborated on On God and have assembled an amazing cohort of experienced and newly emerging creatives.
As I walk into The Dome space at BATS, I am greeted by crew who invite myself and the rest of the audience to sit on either side of the traverse stage and we’re asked not to disturb the aisle carved out in the stage floor full of sand/soil. The actors come on stage one by one and are each welcomed with an individual cheer and applause. Nafanua played by Luz-Eliana Folau-Tovine and Jesus played by Tasman Kaitara enter the stage dressed in a siapo (tapa cloth) dress and a white robe with red sash respectively. Wardrobe by Hellena Fa’asili is already helping the audience gain a sense of the world this play lives in. All of a sudden the aisle centre stage makes sense; the soil connects our two main characters.
The story of On God is a poetic combination of multiple worlds where Kaisa Fa’atui brings the pain of so many indigenous people to the forefront unapologetically. Each monologue shines a light on critical issues that young brown people are often faced with. The writing comes to life in the form of spoken word where we the audience are confronted with the issues and forced to make a connection in some way: are we part of the problem or are we the solution to the problem? Each confronting monologue brings a wave of emotion and I wonder whether constant strings of strife can be lessened to allow space to explore fewer of them more deeply.
Natano played by Kasi Valu and Tyler played by Tamia Filipo offer the audience representation of modern day besties, they reference pop culture and talk in a way where we feel like it’s the present day creating a juxtaposition as Jesus and Nafanua have just exited after a heated debate. Valu and Filipo embody the relationship friends have where we can be completely vulnerable and transparent in one moment and be laughing hysterically in the next.
Losa played by Maurea Perez-Varea represents our mothers, grandmothers and aunties as a frail old woman filled with fast wit, astute judgement and housie counters. Perez-Varea makes me forget I’m watching a young woman wobble her knees and takes me back to sitting with my nana telling me of all the things she used to do when she was young and spry in Samoa.
Ioane played by Justice Tavita Kalolo is her devout grandson who considers his grandmother his best friend, and learns how to use prayer to connect with those who have passed away. Kalolo is endearing as I’m reminded of the admiration and affection I have for my nana any time I have the honour of caring for her, because as all Pacfic Islanders believe there is an immense amount of honour in service.
Ālia played by Kimiora Honeycombe and Sefa played by Seiyan Thompson-Tonga are siblings who argue about the way they embody their strong religious upbringing. Honeycombe and Thompson-Tonga provide a playful yet belligerent sibling relationship which I’m sure anyone with siblings will recognise.
Siva Samoa and contemporary dance are weaved through the narrative as we see imperative moments of each narrative expressed through movement that captivates the audience. A very still audience can be seen as I look across the theatre. Traditional song is also intertwined in the performance as well as a rendition of ‘The Sound of Silence’ entrancingly performed by Kasi Valu.
With a very simple set and considerable number of cast members, lighting designer Josiah Matagi uses lighting cleverly to direct the audience’s attention, particularly in busy scenes, and highlight crucial moments of the show. Matagi makes great use of The Dome space and I enjoy the time where lighting spills to the audience and can’t help but take notice of the opposite audience’s reactions to what’s happening on stage.
On God explores religion and pre-Christianity deities of the Samoan culture; it makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you think, and makes you so proud to be from the Pacific Islands. In this cultural clash of deities I am rooting for the authentic, pre-colonised deity to remain at the heart of the people but leave feeling unfulfilled as the two deities resolve their hostile feelings.
On God is a development show currently at BATS Theatre as part of the Six Degrees Festival. The Six Degrees Festival is running from the 17th of January to the 3rd of February 2024 and presents MFA student projects where they utilise the skills they have learnt over the past year.
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