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March 26, 2018 | by  | in Arts Theatre |
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Talofa Papa

5/5

I walked into Talofa Papa, greeted by an ula made out of fruit bursts, and a kiss on the cheek. I, who thrives off of touch to show care, compassion, and love, was already invested in the show as soon as I walked in the door.

Papa (Kasiano Mita, the creator and performer of the show) came walking through and started greeting audience members who were already seated, ten minutes before the show even started. It was a fluid transition from pre-show to show, because the house lights remained on (if dimmed) for nearly the entire show, and Papa took his time addressing audience members, this time more audibly, so that we could be part of the brief conversation.

Papa treated the audience like his family. You felt like he could pick anyone to talk to, and more importantly, if you answer or behaviour was unsatisfactory, you were asked to sit on the naughty mat, which was on stage.

As the show was starting, Papa asked a “grandson” from the audience to stand and say a prayer in Samoan. The man replied, “I can’t speak Samoan”. This hit me. How many other people are there who can’t speak their cultural language? The man’s friend then indicated that there was a Samoan prayer on the back of the programme which everyone had, and he proceeded to read from it, while everyone held hands. People reached across the few empty seats to take the hands of strangers.

What I love most about this show is that it successfully created a spontaneous community with everyone in the room. There were moments of genuine laughter and pleasure from everyone as audience members were “punished” or rewarded by Papa. But it didn’t matter if you were Samoan or not, you were included in this festivity and in these traditions. The audience was united by the shared understanding of familial love and loss.

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