Killer Kreation Knocks yer socks off [by Sharu Delilkan]
The ‘Klu Kux Klan’ of Pacifica aka Kila Kokonut Krew have yet again pulled a rabbit out of the hat with another first – The Factory, New Zealand’s first Pacific Island musical.
“What the hell”, I thought. “How can it have taken until 2011 to produce a musical, with the abundance of Pacific Island musical talent in Aotearoa?”
The Factory is not just created by Islanders, it’s a musical about Islanders, that covers the struggles faced by generations of Islanders coming to Niu Sila for “milk, honey and money”.
The show is the brainchild of KKK co-founder Vela Manusaute and is inspired by his father’s journey to Aotearoa to work and make a better life for his family.
The factory is the main character, originally providing hope and income for new arrivals to New Zealand but ultimately stripping the workers of their connections to family and their aspirations for a better life.
The evil factory owner, played by Asalemo Tofete (described as “brown on the outside but white on the inside”), may be considered stereotypical by some. However it obviously struck a chord with some of the audience who delighted in the parody and portrayal of a rich man who exploited his own people to the detriment of his own soul.
The original music score composed by the talented Poulima Salima, also the live orchestra’s conductor, was one of the stars of the show. It’s not often that you get to hear an entirely new score for a musical, so this was certainly a treat. The 7-piece orchestra, stage left, was also a great touch that added to the occasion. Lead actress Nastassia Wolfgramm, playing the daughter of The Factory’s owner Lilly, should also be credited for a majority of the compositions.
Choreography and movement around the stage was beautifully executed and the versatile set was fully utilised thanks to Siaosi Mulipola’s fabulous dance sequences.
Some first night jitters were evident in the solos but these were soon ironed out, particularly during the chorus numbers which were bang on, clearly displaying the wealth of talent within the ensemble cast.
Set and lighting designer Sean Coyle deserves special mention. The dramatic impact with his minimalist set, essentially made up of scaffolding and draped pieces of fabric really works.
All the women – Tupe Lualua, Joanna Mika-Toloa (Susana), Victoria Schmidt, Taofi Mose Tuiloma and Wolfgramm – displayed their amazing vocals, adding to the flavour of the evening.
Well-known as a theatre actor and comedian, Fasitua Amosa (Mose) really shone and revealed his hidden talent as a great singer and rapper with his number “How Come?”
The love story between Tom Natoealofa (Tim) and Wolfgramm (Lilly) works well, both excelling vocally and in their onstage performances.
Paul Fagamalo as the Fa’afafine also delights the audience throughout and excels in his performance of the song Factory Floor Queen. The line “Why can’t they see the little boy who wanted to be a queen” is especially poignant.
Some clever visual effects such as the projection of the letters home on the backdrop is something I would have liked to have seen more of, to help highlight the separation of Pacific Islanders in New Zealand from their home and community.
The Factory is cleverly punctuated with the start and end bells of the workers’ shifts, which helped to change scenes without the need for blackouts. It also highlighted the monotony and repetitiveness of working in a factory with little hope of progression.
Predominantly in English, The Factory is very accessible. However the occasional use of Samoan lends an authentic feel to the production while beautifully emphasizing the separation of culture and place.
The standing ovation was well-deserved. It was lovely to be amongst it, and the genuine outpouring of appreciation for what KKK has achieved was a privilege to behold.
Having done the first Tongan play, and now the first New Zealand Pacific Island musical you can’t help but ask “What’s next?” For me I will continue to support KKK because under the inspired guidance of both Manusaute and co-founder and co-director Anapela Polataivao they are bound to deliver excellence. The anticipation of whatever they do next is something I will look forward to with baited breath.
The Factory is presented by Kila Kokonut Krew and plays at Mangere Arts Centre until 10 September.
More information at Kila Kokonut Krew’s facebook page.