Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland

05/08/2014 - 16/08/2014

Production Details

‘Captivating, heartwarming, inspirational Theatre spectacular that speaks of Pacific youth detached from culture’. 

The Tautai Of Digital Winds is an epic South Auckland Theatre Production in support of suicide awareness and prevention. The production is a merger of two plays by Sione’s Wedding star, Iaheto Ah Hi; giving insight into the growing influence of social media and technology in the day to day lives of urban Pacific teens growing up in Aotearoa. 

Funny, emotional and inspiring, The Tautai Of Digital Winds is a poignant urban story that gives voice to the issues of cultural alienation. It speaks about cultural disconnection and the search for identity.

With a large cast of both seasoned and new, The Tautai Of Digital Winds promises to be electrifying, fresh, vibrant and innovative, with unforgettable characters shared through the fuse of both hip hop theatre and multimedia performance art.

WHEN: Tues August 5th-Saturday August 16th 
WHERE: Mangere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku, Corner Orly Avenue & Bader Drive, Mangere Town Centre, Mangere
COST: Adults: $20.00, (6-18 years): $10.00 
BOOK NOW: Eventfinda 

Need more info?  The Tautai of Digital Winds Story 

Iaheto Ah Hi (Sione's Wedding, Matariki),
Victoria Schmidt (Sione's Wedding, Tautai)
Tom Natoealofa (Presenter: Tagata Pasifika, Digital Winds), and
Leilani Clarke (Running With The Bulls, Plantation).

Music Director: Tom Natoealofa
Acting Mentor: Victoria Schmidt
Stage Manager: Deyna Key
Tatau Artist: 'Onesian' Allen Vili
Photographer: Diana Hu

Digital Winds Blow Fierce But Too Long

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 07th Aug 2014

Tale of youth finding their way in the world is strong on emotion. 

With a cast of 25, a live band, dancers and video projections, The Tautai of Digital Winds presents a truly epic piece of community-based theatre. 

The title refers to the navigation of ancient Polynesian voyages and applies the concept to contemporary Pacific Island youth searching for a way through the treacherous currents of their digitally enhanced world. 

Playwright Iaheto Ah Hi shows a talent for creating vivid story fragments driven by intense emotion and leavened with a vigorous sense of humour. [More]


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Fascinating, rich in emotion, performed with passion

Review by Lexie Matheson ONZM 07th Aug 2014

Given my limited knowledge of Pacific languages and my naïve palagi linguistic expertise I get ‘tautai’ to mean ‘navigator’ or ‘fishing captain’. Even if I’m half way correct, either would be a suitable title for this enigmatic ‘now you have me, now you don’t’ piece of epic theatre. 

We’re told that “the production is a merger of two plays written by Sione’s Wedding star Iaheto Ah Hi; giving insight into the growing influence of social media and technology in the day to day lives of urban Pacific teens growing up in Aotearoa.”

Yep, it’s all that alright, but it’s a lot more too and you’d be wise to leave any Eurocentric expectation of what theatre is at the door because The Tautai of Digital Winds dances to the beat of a much different drum.

It’s the story of Mauilata Inati (Aisea Latu), a young car-nicking reprobate living in the shadow of his tough and fearless older brother Tavita (Junior Misimoa) who he wishes to emulate at every turn. Tavita has died in somewhat mysterious circumstances while in custody and it’s only when Mauilata has to accept the inescapable truth that his mother is dying that he meets, head-on, the reality that his hero brother has taken his own life.

Interwoven with Mauilata’s story is that of Celeste (Jennifer Perez), a young woman struggling to find her place in the world. Celeste is cruelly exposed to all the torments of teenage life, to peer pressure, to love at first sight, suspicions of infidelity and, as the marketing blurb tells us, “the ongoing battles in her mind.” She, unsurprisingly perhaps, finds a sense of direction in a church youth group led by Sipugi Upega (Tom Natoealofa), a well-meaning local cop who, in the ’90s had been Tavita’s sidekick and who is, in his own way, mutely dealing with his own weighty demons. 

The publicity – not always the best place to go for an objective opinion – suggests that the show will be “funny, emotional and inspiring” and it’s certainly that. The blurb goes on to say that The Tautai of Digital Winds is “a poignant urban story that gives voice to the issues of cultural alienation of Pacific teens in Aotearoa. It speaks,” the article says, “about their cultural disconnection and the search for identity with unforgettable characters shared through the fuse of both hip hop theatre and multimedia performance art.”

Collectively, that’s a very big ask of any piece of work but somehow Iaheto Ah Hi and his awesome – but in some cases inexperienced – band of brothers and sisters bring it off, and the 2 hours 15 minutes without an interval fairly zip by.

That’s not to say the show is perfect, it’s not, but any criticisms are minor and the overall experience is one of profound reflection as can be expected from a work that’s anchored in alienation, a detachment from tradition and, ultimately, suicide. Challenging the importance we, as individuals, place on our own lives and the positive contribution we can make to lives of those around us is at the heart of The Tautai of Digital Winds and the heartbeat produced is very palpable indeed. 

We arrive at the Mangere Arts Centre, Nga Tohu o Uenuku, to be met in the foyer by a man dressed in white (Fred Asofa-Solomona) who is singing and playing the guitar. It’s clear he’s a busker but my instinct suggests he’s more than that and later we find he, like so much else, has been plaited into the weave of the show in an effective and entertaining way. 

The stage setting is simple: three boxes that serve as a number of locations behind which there is a cyclorama that doubles as a screen for the impressive moving image projections (Candice Ama) that pepper the show.

There is a band (John Pulu, Pos Mavaega – bass, Demetrius Sava’inaea – drums, Bond Tagaloa – keyboards and Toa Siulangapo – guitar) led by vocalist Usipua Siulangapo and their professionalism is evident from the first sound they make. 

As I said at the start, the storytelling doesn’t come in a traditional Eurocentric format. There is no single story line in a conventional sense but the weaving all comes together at the end in a most satisfying way. There are interludes which initially seem disconnected but which are inextricably linked to the common web that the production offers; there’s music of top quality and dance that is impressive beyond words – as indeed it should be, dance being what it is – and the whole has the feel of a cleverly designed patchwork that is flawless but elusive, in essence just like the subject matter itself. 

There are some outstanding performances embedded in the work and they are essential to the production’s success. No role is actor-proof and this work is no exception with a fine balance being maintained between text, the critical cultural interface and performance on the back of which comes some seriously good audience engagement.

Aisea Latu is excellent as Mauilata Inati. He is the archetypal crim with a heart and his journey through a narrative which flips him – and everyone around him – from his past to his future to his present and often without so much as a by-your-leave is impressive. He begins and ends the show, providing bookends that encase the plot and which provide the audience with a sense of completion, a finality that this particular journey seems to require. 

Jennifer Perez plays Celeste with a delightful fragility that is deceptively powerful. She has craft to burn and when required to plumb the emotional depths she’s well and truly equal to the task. Celeste finds herself invited to join a girl gang and to wear the uniform and headband of the clique and she does so to often hilarious effect. The girls are funny and, at times, frightening with Blinky (Destiny Tavita) and Petalz (Paris Fifita) the standouts. 

As the cop Sipugi Upega, Tom Natoealofa is empathic throughout and particularly so in the White Sunday scene which swoops about from satire to heartbreak in an instant.

The small youth choir of Susana (Rosa Patea), Digz (Cory-James Key), April (Tiararaina Te’i), Teuila (Sis Patea) and Jordan (Cory Solomona) manage to be hilariously funny and deeply touching all at the same time. If you see this show – and you should – revisit the lines to ‘Amazing Grace’ before you go because you’ll find you’re expected to be a part of Upega’s Sunday service. You’ll enjoy it because going to church and having a good sing is great for the soul but also because, 2 hours in, it’s a great way to stretch the legs and ease the pressure on the bottom. 

Andrew Norman is Isumus, the stylised representation of the hacker who hacks more than everyone could bargain for. His is commanding work and he makes an excellent adversary. 

There’s a street dance standoff that is both hilarious and deviously skilful with Rookie (the multi-talented Jaycee Tanuvasa) performing feats of daring that take the wind right out of the audience’s sails and have them gasping and clapping all at the same time. Tanuvasa, alongside her ‘Fine Fatale’ dance chums Darren Taniue and Isaac Ah Kiong injects a level of professionalism into the production that allows writer/director Iaheto Ah Hi to comfortably introduce explicit and unambiguous physical metaphor into the work that takes it to another level. 

The street dance is exceptionally performed and, when I look along the row to see how my son is responding to such talent, I note that he’s pulled his hoodie up and his face has disappeared into the shadow created by the fabric. It’s wonderful when audience members feel free to engage with the inner life of the onstage performance and this is just such a private and personal moment. 

Did I mention there are kids in the show? I should have because the first image we see is of a small boy in his PJ’s playing around the boxes with a toy car. It’s evocative of what’s to come, in part because it’s in this form that we first meet Mauilata (Cory Solomona) and come to grips with the fascinating present /past /future nature of the narrative and those who inhabit it. The kids – Susana (Rosa Patea), Digz (Cory-James Key), April (Tiararaina Te’i), Teuila (Sis Patea) and Jordan (Cory Solomona) – are great and provide more than just the cute factor of the show. 

If I wanted to err on side of the fashionable I’d probably say the script could do with some trimming but then I’d be changing what The Tautai of Digital Winds is and for no good reason. It is what it is and its target audience loved it. What’s wrong, after all, with a show that’s over 2 hours in length as long as it’s doing what it sets out to do? And this show does. If it was good enough for Shakespeare to take as long as he wanted to tell his story, why not offer modern playwrights the opportunity to do this also?

Iaheto Ah Hi is an excellent writer and a fine director. He has created a fascinating show rich in emotion and performed with passion by some pretty talented people. It’s worth the price of the ticket just to get a glimpse of the talent of Jaycee Tanuvasa and that’s just the start of it. Aotearoa New Zealand is a proud Pacific nation and this is proud – and contemporary – Pacific theatre. There’s a wonderful amount of great work coming out of South Auckland and you’d be wise to be part of it, that’s if you haven’t been already.


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