Blending circus performance with Pasifika culture, 'Auntie’s Fiafia Night' invites audience members into the home of families across the Pacific islands.
Performing to a packed audience, 'Auntie’s Fiafia Night' showcased traditional cultural performance from New Zealand to the Cook Islands, from Samoa to Tahiti. It was a riot of colour, passion, and music, with a heartfelt message at its core. The show began by introducing the musicians who were on stage the whole time, keeping the rhythm for the various dancers. The drummers were from all across the Pacific, and their instruments were all different shapes and sizes, but came together beautifully – a real metaphor for the night.
The set up of the show was that we were in a living room, with two Aunties sitting on the couch. The performers had to compete for their approval. The night was MC’d by another woman – women were very much at the forefront of the performances – who interviewed the artists between sets, and asked for cultural reflections. This was a really important element, especially for those in the audience with a very limited knowledge of the Pasifika cultures.
Particular highlights of the night – and each set was outstanding, so it’s hard to name just a few – were the Maori performers, who began with softer choir singing before launching into a fierce Haka. The Samoan seated dancing was incredibly impressive, as was the fire twirling and the drag queen extravaganza. It was wonderful to see all these diverse images of the Pacific nations come together.
The circus performances were also impeccable, gravity-defying and terrifying in equal measure. The only possible improvement would be to better integrate the circus performance – while one of the founders of Casus Circus, Natano Fa'anana, is Samoan, and directed the night – it would have been great to understand how the circus fit with the other cultural works.
Ending the night was a rendition of Joni Mitchell’s 'Big Yellow Taxi'. The verses had been changed to reflect the reality of life in the Pacific in this era of climate change, but the chorus remained the same. While the performers were singing, a giant screen in the back showed the pristine paradise of the islands, interspersed with open cut mines, built up concrete mega cities, and a threatened way of life.