By popular demand, Rosalina (directed by Troy Tu’ua and the Sau E Siva Creatives) returns to the Māngere Arts Centre for it’s second sold out season (after its first iteration at the Māngere Arts Centre in 2018). The Sau E Siva Creatives is a recently formed Pacific Dance Theatre Company that was founded by a handful of graduates, (Troy Tu’ua, Italia Hunt, Idalene Ati, Bob Savea and Leki Jackson-Bourke) from the once-effervescent and now non-existent, Pacific Institute of Performing Arts. The foundation of their work stems specifically from South Auckland through the cultural heritage art form of contemporary and traditional siva Sāmoa. In tonight’s iteration, the entire cast consists of 74 performers (from the original 95) and who perform an adaptation of author David Riley’s version of the Sāmoan legend ‘Fatu and the Magic Crab’.
The bare stage is set-up in-the-round, allowing the audience to engage solely on the beautiful art of siva Sāmoa. As the show begins, 10 small spotlights reveal each of the mini chiefs, young boys varying in the age group approx. 5-12. One of the mini chiefs acknowledges the audience’s presence and performs a small lauga whilst the ensemble (who stand closely behind) hum beautifully in the background. The opening number, which nods towards the past, present and future is absolutely breathtaking and literally sends chills down my spine. The song is stunning and choreographed beautifully, giving each of the other differentiated minor roles (Rosalina’s brothers, Manusinas, Lupes and Cousins) a moment to establish their characters while supported by the remaining larger ensemble.
As the story unfolds, parents (played by Christina Silva and John Aniu) have 10 sons (played by Paul Faukafa, Elijah Kennar, Sale Keresoma, Vila Lemanu, Andrew Lefono, Andrew Tuitama, Isope Akauola, Jerry Moses-Roebeck, Gerrard Naea and Lance Leo Leone) who are a typical Sāmoan family and long to have a daughter/sister, which they are finally blessed with and name her, Rosalina (Melania Agaimalo). Rosalina radiates beauty, poise and elegance (like a taupou). And like all Sāmoan girls, she is cared for by her overprotective brothers who consistently scare away the Tama O Le Nu’u (boys of the village). But one day, Tau (played by Daya Sao-Mafiti) manages to whisk Rosalina away from her feaus, and immediately bonds with her through an intimate and romantic duet. Once caught by her brothers, they work even harder to keep their love apart.
Rosalina is tempted to the underworld, when she comes across the Manusina (played by Bellatina Ekeroma, Sentenali Fautua-Solomona, Sheena Luatua, Siana Vagana, Sina Tolai, Stephanie Tuala, Fay Tofilau, Ivana Tanielu and Lupe Mau’u). The Manusina have the tightest choreography, as they move in sync with fluidity as one entity. Lead Manusina (Bellatina Ekeroma) offers Rosalina a drink which eventually turns her body into stone. When she is found by her love-interest Tau, he takes flight as Rosalina’s brothers desperately seek him for death. The entire nu’u mourn her, and offer her body into the ocean from the highest point of the cliff top. Eventually, Tau is found and held captive by Rosalina’s brothers, battling them in a fa’ataupati, convincing them that he is not the cause of Rosalina’s death. In the climax of the show, they all work together (including the ensemble) to beat the Manusina in a show-stopping battle with variations of siva Sāmoa. Once the Manusina are beaten, the love from Rosalina’s people (but most importantly, Tau), is used to revive Rosalina back to life with the overall message, that love conquers all.
There are various highlights of the show, one being the on-stage chemistry between the lead actors Rosalina (Agaimalo) and Tau (Sao-Mafiti). It’s very refreshing to see, in comparison to this mainstream ideal of comedy that Sāmoan are commonly known for. Another highlight is the tight choreography of the Manusina, while moving in unison, they embody a dark entity from another realm. Lastly, I must mention the beautiful sound from their band (lead by Music Director, Joanna Mika-Toloa and accompanied by Luani Rod Nansen, Luani Jnr Nansen, Simon Savili, Kevin Savili, William Tuionetoa, Leonard Folau, Bob Savea and Frank Vaka), as their instrumentals echo through the theatre and into the foyer, unfortunately, some of the vocals from the ensemble fall short and would have benefitted if everyone sang their assigned parts.
Although Rosalina specifically focuses on the art of siva Sāmoa, I believe the show has relevance to all cultures and finding ways to honour the legacy of where you come from. I leave the venue extremely happy. And judging by the tears shed (especially by the elders), and the overall reaction on opening night, I can’t help but be more proud to be Sāmoan. Fa’afetai lava to the Sau E Siva Creatives, cast and crew for your engagement and allowing us to be a part of your story, through your love for siva Sāmoa.
Rosalina plays the Māngere Arts Centre until 23 March.