The Pacific Arts Association (P.A.A.) conference attendees and the locals had the chance to watch the theatre production of “aloFA tu” last week during the five-day conference.
They left with a sense of hope and optimism about the revival of professional Samoan theatre.
The story was about three generations of men in a family whose lives were negatively impacted by a learned culture of secrecy and a legacy of domestic and sexual violence against women.
If art imitates life, then there were moments of recognition as the story depicted on stage mirrored the harsh truths that so many Samoan families can relate to.
Tears and laughter were shared in the audience because the cast of “aloFA tu” told a story that was all too familiar in our society.
During the interval, the Arts Practice Director Pacific from Creative New Zealand, Makerita Urale, who is a writer, theatre producer and documentary filmmaker herself, spoke to the Samoa Observer about the play.
“It’s just the interval and I’m just so impressed to see the level of professional theatre that is growing in Samoa and I think it really helps that Fiona Collins is a professional theatre writer and director who went through New Zealand drama school. And Uelese is a god on stage, he is insanely amazing,” Urale said.
“I’m from professional theatre in New Zealand and international productions and to see his level of performance is incredible and it’s a real honour and a privilege to watch it here in the Fale Samoa at N.U.S.
“Theatre is about direction, the script comes first and Fiona has nailed that and then it’s the direction and she has two of those roles, the writer and director and she happens to have gotten Uelese, who is holding the whole piece together, and then herself performing and then Asolelei performing and the young Fana’afi.
“It’s a beautiful piece and it’s gorgeous to see it here in the Fale Samoa at N.U.S. that’s a Samoan fale but the setup is really wonderful to have western style professional theatre that really works. It’s fantastic.”
Tuiasau Uelese Petaia played a lead role in “aloFA tu” and as a pioneer in international film and theatre; he knows very well how important it is to have good writers and in his view the revival of theatre in Samoa will depend on our future writers.
“When I first read the script, I couldn’t put it down because it was so real and you know about all the problems that we had and the things we grew up with; violence in the home and violence against women.”
“So it was important to make sure that this story gets told and it’s good that we have writers because without the writers we don’t have the story.
That’s why it’s great that we have people like Fiona and it’s great if our young people can be encouraged to become writers because then we won’t have a shortage of avenues to promote the different messages that we need to have.
“It’s important that we maintain the momentum. There used to be really strong theatre but it was mainly driven by expatriate communities that eventually faded off but hopefully we can get a revival of theatre especially Samoan theatre. There are so many Samoan stories to tell.”
Writer and Director, Fiona Collins was very happy with her cast’s performance and despite the challenges theatre production faces in Samoa, she was proud of Tuiasau, Naea Asolelei To’alepai, Fana’afi Sooaemalelagi and herself.
“The hard thing about working here is finding people who can give all their time, so that’s been the most stressful thing, trying to work around other people’s hours. But in saying that, everyone has other jobs but the difference between other works and this one, is that this time once we were all here, it’s magic because everyone really wants to do it.”
The play ended with a well-deserved, standing ovation.