Review: Wild dogs under my skirt, Mangere Arts Centre

By Paul Simei-Barton

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Tusiata Avia in action during her solo show, Wild Dogs Under My Skirt.
Tusiata Avia in action during her solo show, Wild Dogs Under My Skirt.

Theatre company FCC's ensemble production of Wild Dogs Under My Skirt breathes new life into a remarkable collection of poems by Tusiata Avia which was published in 2004 and toured internationally to widespread acclaim.

The poems take us beyond the familiar picture of Pacific Island life and present a deeply personal vision of cultural collisions that have created a fragmented, damaged world teeming with vivid, life-affirming images.

Director Anapela Polataivao has woven the poems into a vibrant, choral work filled with humor, dance and song. The cast of six talented women gracefully conjure up the rhythms of Samoan village life with ukuleles, song and sharply orchestrated chanting.

Choreography by Charlene Tedrow brings a dark, sinister energy to the recurring image of dogs - 'wild Samoan dogs, the mangy kind that bite strangers' - and the snarling presence of these mistreated animals gives voice to the anguished cry of the misfit.

Lighter moments come with Luse Su'a Tuipulotu's hilarious characterisation of the hard case Aunty Fale laying down an ever-expanding litany of 'don'ts' that young Pacific Island girls must follow. Malia 'Ahovelo movingly expresses the bewildered perspective of a young village girl who has learned to expect casual violence, abuse and distain for any expression of individuality.

Stacey Leilua's performance captures the ironic, mocking persona of the poet who lives between two worlds as she carries the down-to-earth sensuality of her Pacific roots on an international odyssey that takes in an intriguing encounter with Middle Eastern culture.

This dichotomy is brilliantly encapsulated as the poet mediates on her size 11 feet drawing her down into the earth while she dreams of rising into the glamorous air that can be enjoyed in the elevated realm of high heels.

What: Wild Dogs Under My Skirt
Where: Mangere Arts Centre - Ngā Tohu o Uenuku to October 1

- NZ Herald

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