REVIEW: Masi by The Conch
Soundings Theatre till March 6
Reviewed by Ewen Coleman
Many adjectives come to mind during and after watching The Conch's production of Masi at Soundings Theatre, but mesmerising and spellbinding are probably the most apt.
With hardly a word spoken, but with a haunting soundtrack composed by Gareth Farr, some great singing, dramatic and very physical dance by a group of Fijian dancers and some amazing illusionary effects, director Nina Nawalowalo, who is also one of the creators and performs in the show, brings together brilliantly 1 1/2-hours of theatrical magic to the Soundings' stage.
Weaving two interlinking stories from the islands of Fiji, Nawalowalo and her team gently and subversively draw the audience into her world of family and island life.
A Fijian chieftain (her father) meets a European girl (her mother) at the Wellington Chess Club during the 1950s. The symbolism of the black and white pieces is very effectively used to show their meeting, romance and subsequent marriage. Also used most creatively are black and white images of the couple captured by photographer Ans Westra. The creation of masi, traditional Fijian tapa cloth made from the bark of paper mulberry trees and such an important part of traditional Fijian life, is then interwoven with the story of Nawalowalo's parents. A twig grows into a tree, a boy grows into a man, all wonderfully created on stage by illusionist Paul Kieve. And the spirits of the past are dramatically brought to life through some very physical dancing, and superb harmonised singing that evokes the flavour of the Fiji islands with great clarity culminating with what was supposedly the funeral of Nawalowalo's father.
All the while on the side of the stage a woman sits making and designing masi, the tapa cloth.
This is a most unusual offering for this year's festival that is extraordinarily unique and which is one of the "must-sees" of the festival.