Auntie’s Fiafia Night
South Bank Piazza
September 8 – 11
“Auntie’s Fiafia Night” is about paying respect to the woman who have shaped us in a multitude of ways. It’s a concept cemented from its outset with pre-show celebration in song, appearance on a couch to the side of the stage of the night’s ready-to-be impressed Aunties and warm welcome from emcee Lana Siligia.
Also immediately clear is the work’s passionate celebration of culture, art and resilience, but also collaboration… most notably between the traditional dance, ceremony and song of local Pasifika community groups and the jaw-dropping acrobatic skill of world-renowned Brisbane circus group Casus. From the show’s very first number the circus group bends, balances and later juggles its way impressively around and above the stage. Indeed, the skilled performers appear frequently throughout the 75-minute work, with their astonishing pyramid formations, human skipping ropes and contortions into and jump through circus rings, featuring in complement of the variety of other performance groups that feature as part of its program of commemoration of Polynesian legends, stories and culture in music, song and dance.
The integration is seamlessly crafted, such as when a hoop routine emerges from a Tahitian number that begins with explanation of the graceful Hawaiian hula dance’s inspiration of the hula hoop movement around different parts of the body. Most notable amongst the early feats, however, is when Lachlan Macaulay walks across the outstretched arms of another atop a pyramid of performers and then when he precariously balances atop a build of seven chairs and two benches on a table. And when the gravity-defying feats take advantage of the heights of the Suncorp piazza space such as when Jessie Scott hangs upside down to dangle Macaulay from his head with an aerial strap, audience members are left amazed by the spectacle. A further Casus highlight comes courtesy of Ela Bartilimo’s aerial rope work and footfire of a flaming archery arrow while upside down on hand balance stands, to the swelling sound of high-energy drums.
Beautiful as any of the night’s vocals are, under Airileke Ingram’s musical direction it is percussion that sits at the heart of the show’s high energy, oceanic score. There are some light and shade moments that come courtesy of lyrical guitar sounds and quieter performative pieces like share of a Samoan myth of warning against vanity from a woman within our mirrors, but before long things are back to crowd-pleasing colour, movement and exuberant energy in celebration of a range of cultures.
With musical numbers that retrace genealogy back to ancestral times, “Auntie’s Fiafia Night” carries a clear message of the collective power of community. With so much often happening on stage audiences are spoiled for choice of where to look as Maori Kapa Haka, Samoan seated dancing, Cook Island routines, Tahitian dance and even fire twirling sees 80+ performers providing the show’s entertainment. It is the mix of traditional and contemporary, however, that gives the work so much of its appeal, which is especially seen when sassy House of Alexander performers shante onto to stage to vogue some fierce drag death-drop type moves all with appropriate accompanying attitude.
With cheeky humour and an intrinsically inclusive sensibility, “Auntie’s Fiafia Night” is fun for all ages. The Samoan night of celebration of family, lineage and culture’s combine of gravity-defying acrobatic feats with traditional slap and fire dances, chants and ancient urban legend stories, is a delightful experience from start to finish that like its Brisbane Festival run is over all too soon.