REVIEW: Polly Hood In Mumuland

Pua Magasiva Polly Hood in Mumuland
Pua Magasiva as the Wolf steals the show

Mumuland mesmerises Mangere [by Sharu Delilkan]

Pua Magasiva Polly Hood in Mumuland
Pua Magasiva as the Wolf steals the show

It was an evening of firsts for me.  From experiencing a performance at the Mangere Arts Centre theatre for the first time, to seeing a Pacific Island flavoured musical extravaganza led by Goretti Chadwick, making her directorial debut.

Another first was also the collaboration between Auckland Theatre Company and the Pacific Institute of Performing Arts.

A clever twist on a traditional favourite, Little Red Riding Hood, the show is snappy and delivers in exuberant Polynesian style – all the elements of a great family show.

Watching the kids responding around me was a joy.  They were enraptured and entranced from the very first Munchkin-like, helium-induced introduction into a fantasy world.

The key to enjoying the show is to go with an open mind and to allow yourself to be a kid again – something we don’t do enough of in our ‘adult’ lives.

The real triumph of the show is a credit to the entire cast, deft directorial touches and joyously inspired musical arrangements by musical director Tama Waipara in collaboration with the PIPA students.

Written by Lauren Jackson, Polly Hood in Mumuland’s secret ingredients consist of zaniness, fun and a whole heap of silliness.

The writing is great, the characters are hilarious and the evident skill of Chadwick makes for a delightfully slick production.

The plot twists and turns with a variety of well-acted characters interacting with the talented Litea Aholelei (Red aka Polly) in an ‘Alice in Wonderland-esque’ journey through Mumuland – cleverly and fantastically modelled on South, Central and West Auckland.

All of the lead characters are exemplary with Pua Magasiva’s Wolf stealing the show with comical expressions, ‘ridiculosity’ and downright idiocy.

Of the drag characters Paul Fagamalo as Aunty Sila is exceptionally feminine and sexy and “what job doesn’t she do?” becomes a running theme for the audience – with her unexpected appearances throughout the show.

Asalemo Tofete as the grandma is scarily and authoritatively matriarchal.  And the drag dancers energetically round out the professional panto style.

The cast and crew’s ability not to take themselves seriously is secret of their resounding success.

I found myself having to shut my gaping mouth occasionally as I watched the show with childlike eyes.

The combination of professional actors with PIPA’s graduates and students is a force to be reckoned with.

Polly Hood in Mumuland is essentially a fabulous family show with a unique Polynesian touch, making it a great representation of South Auckland in its fitting venue.

Having a narrator (Waipara) was a clever device to weave the storylines together.

The Chicks (Joanna Mika-Toloa, Yvonne Taufa and Nastassia Wolfgramm) reminiscent of The Supremes, both vocally and in appearance, provide a great richness with their pitch perfect backup singing.

Waipara’s brilliant talent shines through in all the musical arrangements and popular music medleys.  Among the songs are Justified and Ancient (KLF), Freakum Dress (Beyonce), PriceTag (Jessie J) and What’s the time Mr Wolf? (Southside of Bombay).

The music, singing and harmonies were out of this world.  And when I closed my eyes for a brief second to get the full audio effect I was immediately transported to the Pacific Islands.

The live musicians Joseph Taouma (guitarist) and Suivai Autagavaia (drummer), stage left, play beautifully and skilfully, adding to the spectacle.

The costumes by Sophie Ham are aptly colourful and varied, in keeping with the production’s vibrant Polynesian flavour.

The choreography by Amanaki Prescott, who worked in tandem with Chadwick and the PIPA students, is definitely worthy of high commendation for its natural fluidityand perfect complement to the music.

And Red makes no bones about showing she’s got what it takes when she tears up the dance floor with her hip hop dance moves that are nothing short of spectacular.  I particularly liked the way she does the pop and lock, bringing the house down.

Chadwick should be proud of herself for making brave choices in this no-holes-barred performance and for not ‘dumbing it down’ for us non-Polynesians – making us feel at home and very much included.

The introduction of Samoan language confusion between the non-Samoan wolf pretending to be grandma and the less than fluent Red adds a great humorous element.

Watching the adults buy into this world was also extremely infectious.

It’s obvious that the cast is having fun and the audience is engulfed and embraced by the humour, wit and charm of every single performer.

Guaranteed to bring a smile to any child’s face, Polly Hood in Mumuland reveals the child in all of us. The sustained energy level throughout the show left everyone at the Mangere Arts Centre both exhausted and happy.

And who could resist smiling at that.

Polly Hood in Mumuland is presented by the Pacific Institute of Performing Arts and Auckland Theatre Company and plays at the Mangere Arts Centre until April 21.  More information at the Auckland Theatre Company website.

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