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September 7, 2009 | by  | in Theatre |
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The Conchus Season


The Conchus Season was a very diverse evening of three solo devised performances by Pacific Island women. While each of the three works took very different forms they dealt with similar themes. Strings of loneliness, disconnection, hope, alienation, the family unit as a powerful force both negatively and positively, and the individual vs. the group run throughout. While the three works all stand admirably alone, the direction and design are skillfully pitched so that the three works together work as an evening more powerful than the sum of its parts.

The evening starts with Kasaya Manulevu’s Yalewa, the story of her journey from Kadavu in Fiji to Porirua. Told skillfully through puppetry (masterfully operated by Salesi Le’ota) and brief but strikingly abstract images of the performer, the story has a dreamlike build to it, that it sadly does not seem really to capitalise on. The result is a piece of great technical skill that seems to be leading us into a larger and deeper work, one that never arrives. It was, however, a great prologue to the evening. But there is a difference to leaving the audience wanting more and stopping mid-flow.

Then came Princess Te Puea Whioke’s Some Things Can’t Be Healed By Bandages. A physical (read: dance) theatre exploration of the issues and moments of domestic violence. While her approach of the subject is daring and, at times, deeply affecting, Whioke’s use of dance at points seems rather random. There is some very clear skill in her performance, I wish I could dance a quarter as well as her, but the piece felt very unfocused and lacked any real thesis or resolution.

Finally arrived the clear highlight of the evening, Kristyl Neho’s Te Mahara —The Memory. Clearly the most tradional of the evening’s offerings, it was originated as a work in last year’s season of Go Solo graduation pieces at Toi. Telling the story of one family and how they deal with a grandmother’s slow drift away from them into Alzheimer’s, Neho plays 15 different characters with supreme skill and style. Te Mahara is in equal parts heart-wrenching and joyously life-affirming. The story is told with precision and lucidity, helped by Neho being such an infectiously watchable stage presence. This was clearly the break out work of a major new talent and was worth the price of entry alone.

The Conchus Season
Directed by Nina Nawalowalo and Tom McCrory
With Princess Te Puea Whioke, Kasaya Manulevu
and Kristyl Neho
At BATS, 7pm, 18–29 August 2009

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About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

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