18/02/2016 - 20/02/2016
Meeting the in-laws for the first time is always a nerve racking experience! Especially if those in-laws are Samoan! Need a guide? ‘Samoan 101’ takes a modern look at the awkward and beautiful experience of getting your ins with the in-laws!
We Don’T WaNT to MOve TO aUcKLanD!!!
“What do you do when you’re in the Arts, have a voice and don’t want to pack your bags and move City?”
This was us in 2012. After producing a successful season of our version of Romeo and Tusi by Erolia Ifopo and Oscar Kightley, this group of Whitireia graduates, under the direction of Sasha Gibb, came together and formed Jandals Inc an organization that is committed to the development and longevity of ethnic arts in Wellington, creating a place/pathway for future Pacific practitioners.
To create, develop, produce, support and present artistic work that is relevant and culturally significant to Pacific Island people in New Zealand. We have a passion for work that will affect social change, challenge thinking, and educate our audiences.
“In 2014, Jandals produced its first devised work IMPACT which explored the inner strength of us as people of the Pacific. This work was primarily movement driven, and led us to embark on the next phase of our journey; to produce a fully scripted theatrical work, written by and produced by Jandals. As many of our company members had been spending time abroad, we became very interested in the beauty and confusion of stepping into another way of being, and how we might relate this to us here at home.” – Sasha Gibb, Artistic Director
wHeN aNd wHErE
Whitireia Performance Centre, 25-27 Vivian Street, Wellington
February 18th – 20th, 7pm
Tickets from thetheatre.co.nz
Leo Maggs, Performer
After completing his two year Whitireia Stage and Screen Arts Diploma, Leo has been accepted into the Toi Whaakari Acting programme for 2016. Leo and Kasi’s personal friendship has been one of the inspirations inside the “Samoan 101” devising process. Leo has completed several roles both on/off the stage and screen, most recently working alongside the New Zealand Film School with the creation of their five minute dramas.
Kasiano Mita, Performer
Athlete turned actor, Kasi recently graduated from Whitireia with a Diploma in Stage and Screen Arts and is looking forward to a devised mime project for his third year ‘Body of Work’. Primarily a movement based actor, Kasi was excited at the opportunity to work with Jandals Inc, allowing him to further develop his devising skills and deepen his connection to his Samoan culture.
Saufoi Faavale, Performer
Graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Whitireia in 2013, Sauf has toured the country with the “Sex wise” Theatre in Education programme and has worked on a number of Jandals Inc projects, as well as creating his own comedy character videos on the side (facebook famous ya’ll!). Saufoi has been a key player in the research and character development of “Samoan 101”.
Julien Lameka Nehemia, Performer
Julien is a graduate of the Whitireia Performing Arts programme. Confident in the art of Pacific Island dance, Julien stepped out of his comfort zone and initially became involved with Jandals Inc as an actor and musician. Since then he has moved into other production areas, including devising and stage management. A father of two, Julien is well skilled in balancing on/off stage life with spending time with his young family.
Sasha Gibb, Director
Sasha is the Artistic Director of Jandals Inc. Since 2010, she has worked with, and for, a variety of Wellington based Theatre Companies, including spending the last five years as the Producer for Te Rakau Trust. Sasha’s experience also includes directing Romeo and Tusi and IMPACT for Jandals Inc, character and narrative development for Tiki Taane Mahuta by Tanemahuta Gray and co-directing The Battalion and The Ragged by Helen Pearse-Otene. She is excited to be supporting the Jandals team through its journey to create Samoan 101.
Sandi Malesic, Dramaturg
Sandi was born in Yugoslavia, now known as Bosnia. In 2013, Sandi devised a one woman audience interactive show about surviving the war she was born into. This project was a significant part of Sandi’s degree at Whitireia and was the beginning of Sandi’s obsession with “making work”. She has performed various roles both on and off the stage, and was inspired with the idea of creating “Samoan 101” during her time producing the Measina Festival in 2015. She is honoured that Jandals Inc embraced the vision and allowed Sandi to take the dramaturgical role in this process.
Leo Maggs, Kasiano Mita, Saufoi Fa’avale, Julien Nehemia, Pernille Osborne, Sasha Gibb.
All the ingredients are here
Review by John Smythe 20th Feb 2016
It is billed as a ‘Development Season’ and clearly a lot has changed since the press release (23rd November, 2015). Then it was being ‘devised’ by a team of 13 with director Sasha Gibb and the premise was this:
“Meeting the in-laws for the first time is always a nerve racking experience! Especially if those in-laws are Samoan! Need a guide? Samoan 101 takes a modern look at the awkward and beautiful experience of getting your ins with the in-laws!”
Now called Samoa 101, Saufoi Tua Fa’avale – one of the actors in devising team – has been credited as the script writer. The premise is that, having been asked to ‘mind-map’ their country of origin, the assignment for a class of schoolboys is to further research the traditions and culture of their given country then present something in performance. A palagi boy with no family apart from his grandmother teams up with his Samoan mate whose life is replete with a mum, dad, sister and traditional cultural practices. What follows remains an “awkward and beautiful experience”.
The show ends with a request to the audience to freely offer their feedback. I check they’d like mine in the form of a review – so here it is.
Intriguingly Samoa 101 starts with the pale, skinny, palagi boy, Michael Plane (Leo Maggs), entering the Whitireia performance space wearing a lava-lava, sitting cross-legged and offering a desultory attempt at Sasa. Awkward. He scarpers and the stage – furnished only with wooden chairs – is invaded by schoolboys: Laurent (Dylan Fa’atui) with Indian heritage and a rather manic smile, cheeky joker Peter (John Ulu) and ever-studious Drake (Jeremy Davis).
As their teacher, Mr Paul Davis (Matthew Düssler), sets the assignment, the two central characters – Michael Plane and Sonny Va’alele (Saufoi Tua Fa’avale) – arrive late, get into the usual trouble and are paired up. While the teacher is more stereotype than archetype, the classroom scene does dynamically establish the characters and set up the objectives that will drive the action.
Michael’s ‘Gammy’ is limited to calling for the cat, Henry, hanging out washing and caring for her orphaned grandson. Pernille Osborne makes her kind and gentle but resorts to the cliché of bending over and shuffling. I recommend taking another look at the seniors in the world around us.
The Samoan family reflects the archetypes established by The Naked Samoans, (Skitz spin-off), The Semisis and Bro Town. While the parents have no names or depth of character, Mum (Kasiano Mita) rules the roost, counterpointing her deep-felt love for her family and Michael with dire threats, and Dad (Julien Lemeka Nehemia) offers support when demanded then nods off in his chair.
Elisapeta (Seruia Pou), known as Peta, clearly has more to offer than her traditional role in the family allows and this frustration feeds well into the constant and very authentic sniping between her and Sonny.
Saufoi Tua Fa’avale and Leo Maggs find good depth and dimension in Sonny and Michael respectively, negotiating the changing nature of their relationship – not least in relation to Peta’s reciprocated friendliness towards Michael – with a truth that commands our empathy. The naturalism of the exchanges between the three young characters is especially impressive.
A hymn sung in four-part harmony by the Va’alele family is exquisite and the brief glimpses of the Sasa being practised by the boys, and Sonny’s highly accomplished moves (Taualuga?), whet our appetite for more. The poetry of these sequences contrasts splendidly with the prosaic elements of their lives.
A major conflict between Sonny and Michael stops the plot playing out predictably as the time for the cultural presentation approaches. Drake and Peter, whose country is Africa, lead a spirited Gumboot Dance, which originated in the mines of South Africa.*
Despite Mum (“I will always be your Mum. And Dad.”) helping Sonny to see the error of his ways, Michael attempts his Sasa alone – returning us to where the play started: awkward … until an ace drummer (Sonny’s Dad) the the other boys – including Sonny – join in.
Laurent’s lyrical Bollywood-style Indian dance is relegated to leading into the curtain call. My recommendation would be to start the ‘show-within-the-show’ with Michael’s under-par effort from which (as at the start) he escapes in ignominy; then the Gumboot Dance, then the Indian Dance which cross-fades into a resolution scene between Sonny and Michael …
This could lead into Sonny’s stirring ‘what culture is about’ speech (family, identity, acceptance, honour, respect ….) and culminate in the Samoan dance, led by Sonny and Michael, as the triumphant finale.
All the ingredients are here. More cultural context as part of the presentation for each dance could enrich the play and add entertainment value. The story behind the Gumboot Dance, for example, is fascinating. That plus the aforementioned more character-building and restructuring for a stronger ending will allow Samoa 101 to take pride of place in Jandals Inc’s growing repertoire.
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