Have You Ever Been With An Asian Womxn; Taurite; The Wall | Auckland Fringe 2020

From the creators of Go Home Curry Mucha, Gemishka Chetty and Aiwa Pooamorn return to the stage with a tangy slice of the fetished world of ‘exotic’ women. Have You Ever Been With An Asian Womxn? offers vignettes into the deeply frustrated and emotionally exhausted lives of Asian women who continue to suffer from the demeaning impacts of the colonial white gaze. It’s funny, hard-hitting and a blend of confessional and verbatim theatre. Chetty and Pooamorn (the latter who does a fabulous video satirizing the Thai masseuse) are also joined by Ellie Lim and Elaine Chun who add to the conversation with wit and humour. There are some wonderful voice overs (that occasionally take place with no one on stage?) and although the start is a bit slow the energy quickly ramps up. The show is missing a director to bring this important work to a cohesive place but the unwavering commitment and of the creatives to showcasing these stories on their own terms cannot be faulted. While still in development, there is plenty of potential to take this production – and its stories – to the next level.

Taurite is one of the hidden gems in this year’s Fringe Festival. Over four days, director, creative producer and founder of Hawaiki Tū, Kura Te Ua and her amazing team of dancers as well as performers from Te Roopu Kapa Haka o Te Manu Huia, bring to life a beautiful kōrero through contemporary dance. Vibrating with the call for us to have balance in our world, Taurite is anchored in te ao Māori, touching on the dualities of light and darkness, earth and sky, our babies and our ancestors. Enhanced by the acoustics of the Town Hall’s concert chamber, the voices of the performers are in exquisite harmony as they blend different art forms keeping to the movement alive and the narrative fluid. From the whenua to the four directions to the ancestral pou and finally to the future, the tamariki who take leadership for generations to come –  this is a magnificently polished performance (especially for a development work) with a mesmerising soundscape of voices rising in waiata. Taurite is an exceptional highlight of the Fringe festival work and one to watch out for in the future.

Written by Mallika Krishnamurthy and directed by founder of Babel Theatre, Daniel Fernandez, The Wall is a raw and poignant exploration of what it means to be an immigrant. The strong cast of 25 share personal stories through a well-woven ensemble performance and while there is no obvious mention to Aotearoa its easy to recognise the anti-immigrant rhetoric of our politicians and former leaders. The ‘Wall’ itself looms as a large and constant reminder at one end of the stage while a narrator surrounded by books and papers compelled to write a story that she confesses is not ‘mine to write’ occupies the other. The performers include those from a variety of different backgrounds and the mix of languages (especially the from the Middle East and Latin America) are encouraging to hear. Natascha Diaz, Sneha Shetty and Maulik Thakkar all give endearing performances and while the cast as a whole is strong, occasionally voices and stories blur as the volume rises. The show, while emphasizing the issues of immigration in Aotearoa, doesn’t quite respond to the role of tangata whenua and some of the closing remarks veer on the didactic. This does little justice to the wealth of knowledge and cultural capital that immigrants bring – they are more than just taxi drivers, cleaners, nurses. Ultimately, it’s a powerful community production that holds some very hard truths with great tenderness.