Review: FA’AAFA and Big J Stylez
These were possibly my most anticipated shows of this year’s Fringe. FA’AAFA is presented by FAFSWAG, an Auckland based collective of artists who celebrate LGBTQ Pacific Islander culture. I’ve seen the photos, watched the interactive documentary, and read about their work so I was excited to see them in this year’s Fringe. Big J Stylez stars Jacob Dombroski. It’s presented by Everybody Cool Lives Here a Wellington based company who aim ‘to produce art that reflects Aotearoa’s unique and diverse voice’ I’d seen Dombroski in one of their previous shows and since he’s a performer who’s not afraid to connect with the audience I was really interested to see what he’d do with a solo project.
Friends, I was not disappointed.
FA’AAFA explores the concept of ‘existing in duality’, neither one or the other but both. Underpinned by a Samoan world view it uses movement, dance, visual projection, and costume, to shift our perception to an elemental level. Time and space were distorted as performers Falencie Filipo, Moe Laga, Joey Tinai & Pati Solomona Tyrell glide through the air (or water or fire or stone) with undulating arms, rippling fingers and precise control. It was like a meditation but rather than quieting the mind it activated it. Invoking the gods, the ancestors, and the relationship between audience and performers I gave up the pretence of taking notes and instead watched, entranced. A strong visual aesthetic from director Pati Solomona Tyrell meant this show was gorgeous as well as deeply grounded.
(This performance includes the poem ‘My Body Is’ by award winning Samoa/New Zealand poet Tusiata Avia who has her own show Wild Dogs Under My Skirt on at the Hannah Playhouse as part of the New Zealand Festival to 11 March 2018)
- FA’AAFA on at BATS Theatre as part of the NZ Fringe Festival to 9 March 2018
After a breathless fast walk through the rain I got my first look at Te Auaha, the new space in Dixon street. There’s a lovely contemporary waharoa stretching up in the double height foyer inviting us in. In Big J Stylez, Dombroski invites us to meet his whānau – his single Mum, his little brother, and Tiger, a soft toy/friend from childhood. Alternating dance with monologue he shows us some of the formative episodes in his childhood. We cheer, and laugh and go very quiet when he describes some of the negative attitudes people have towards him because he happened to be born with Down syndrome. (Emerging contemporary dancer/choreographer Braedyn Togi has supported Dombroski with some of the movement. The dance which expresses his rage and sorrow was one of the most arresting pieces I’ve seen in a while.) Performance design by Rowan Pierce includes all encompassing visual projection and direction by Rose Kirkup ensures that the visuals and action on stage work in harmony.
- Big J Stylez on at Te Auaha as part of the NZ Fringe Festival to 10 March 2018