Flooded stage enhances lagoon story

By Sarah MacLellan

Vula is directed by Nina Nawalowalo and takes a Fijian and Samoan perspective of a day in the life of a Pacific woman. With a touch of magic and a stage flooded with water, Vula recreates the traditional life of Pacific women working and playing in their lagoon.

"The water represents a lagoon which is the woman’s domain. The lagoon is the woman’s place. Women wash in it, they wash their clothes and they fish in the lagoon, while the reef is the male’s domain," says Nawalowalo.

The set is a specially designed pool with a black base. It is a plastic pool frame, which sits on foam and plastic, "to be sure there is not a drop of water on the stage".

Vula’s set has been created to optimise the lighting, with Stephen Blackburn winning a Chapman Tripp award for best lighting design. The light captures the water’s mystery and pulls the audience into an unknowing depth of illusion.

Vula is Fijian for moon, which has an omni-presence in every aspect of women’s lives. The moon is a watch-keeper lingering over the lagoon day and night.

Fresh from two seasons in Wellington, Vula has been created to travel internationally.

"The work has been made with long-term vision to take it overseas," says Nawalowalo. "The show will travel well because there are no language barriers."

The award-winning music score by Gareth Farr carries Vula through the daily chores, hilarity and magic that are encountered in the lagoon.

"We have a lot of magic with illusion," says Nawalowalo. "I love the art of magic if used in a theatrical setting.

"We use magic cleverly and really take people’s imaginations. All of the props are Pacific props like woven mats and there are woven fish in the air."

Performers Fiona Collins, Susana Lei’ataua, Tausili Mose and Kasaya Manulevu have helped devise Vula from their own explorations into their Samoan and Fijian heritage.

Nawalowalo had the framework for the idea of Vula after visiting Fiji with her father.

She took the idea and further devised it with the four performers. The performers are all Kiwi Pacific islanders.

It’s a remarkable theatre piece with a charismatic story and a sprinkle of magic to expand the audience’s imagination.

The flooded stage and tremendous lighting enhance the performances and create intimacy and an illusory piece of dynamic theatre. 
 
* What: Vula


* Who: Directed by Nina Nawalowalo. Score by Gareth Farr. Lighting by Stephen Blackburn. Starring Fiona Collins, Susana Lei’ataua, Tausili Mose and Kasaya Manulevu


* When: Saturday, February 26, 7.30pm


Sunday, February 27, 6.30pm


Monday, February 28, 6.30pm


Tuesday, March 1, 7.30pm


Wednesday, March 2, 7.30pm


* Where: Maidment Theatre

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