Faaafa at Basement Theatre | Review

Pati Solomona Tyrell’s Fa’aafa delves deep into traditional fables (faagogo) with a keen contemporary mind in order to bring to life an experience. Despite a slow start, and some transitioning issues, it’s a piece of moving Pacific art, poetry and dance that you should catch before closing night Saturday August 19. LAUMATA LAUANO caught the opening night 




It’s a slow start, one that feels like forever. 


But it’s fitting, if you think about how one must feel when straddling the line between being yourself and being who society wants you to be.


And then you feel bad for feeling impatient.


Especially when there is movement and you realise it’s also painstakingly slow, unnerving to watch as the performer struggles against seemingly nothing.


Fa’aafa, meaning ‘to be half’ or ‘in the manner of half’ in Samoan, is an unapologetic show of the fluidity of identity and sexuality through the use of Samoan oral traditions, adornment, movement and sound.


The piece is juxtaposed against the colour and contrast of modern digital projection, which works to keep the audience enthralled and work together to create a gripping and responsive Samoan fagogo (fable) for young urban Polynesians.


The cast, made of emerging and established performers which includes Fa’afa’s creator, are graceful in their movements- adorned in traditional yet contemporary wear that is stunning to behold.


The use of Tusiata Avia’s poetry allows for a reimagining of her words ‘my body is’ that is both confronting, yet soothing as we watch the performer’s body sway and flow to the beat of Avia’s voice.


How the visual and audio elements work together are stark and mesmerising, from the multimedia digital projection, the performers and their garb, through to the loud sounds that range from whispers of Samoan fables and orating, to the sound of the tanoa, drums and music.


There’s a moment during which you hear a man and women speaking in Samoan, over what sounds like someone crying in the background.


Beautiful on its own, as they tell whoever it is they are talking to that it doesn’t matter who the person loves, he is their son and all they want for him is to do well in life for himself as he/she would have to work extra hard.


The moment is even more beautiful when you know that those are Tyrell’s parents and their actual responses to him when he came out as gay to them.


It’s an issue that many queer Pacific island men struggle with due to the constraints of Christianity’s influence on parents, bringing with it stringent views of masculinity and sexuality.


Through this lens the piece explores these themes of identity, sexuality, cultural heritage and family.


It’s an obvious thwarting of Western gender binaries and unashamedly explores gender fluidity in a way that puts how ‘Poly brown bodies’ are portrayed in mainstream media on blast.


Get your tickets here