Lalelei | Sau E Siva

Move over Juliet and what’s his name. There’s a love story from Samoa that has just as much legendary status as any other classic and this one’s right from our own neighbourhood.

Sau E Siva bring us Lalelei: a contemporary classic that combines all the elements of tragedy, love, loss with a healthy dose of humour in an hour long performance that channels one of the various interpretations of the legend of the immortalised Turtle and Shark. The most popular seem to be of a grandmother and grand-daughter and a wife/ husband duo. While there are different sequences of events, both pairs are forsaken by those around them and become immortalised, through legend, as the turtle and the shark, to live forever more in the waters off the village of Vaitogi.

In this production, Fonunea is the young beautiful maiden desired by the high chief and despite the implications of rejecting his advances, she chooses a man who is of low rank. The storyline is predictable but what makes this particular production both poignant and stirring is the commitment of its forty strong cast to bring this legend alive.

Siva Samoa is a traditional form of Samoan dance but under the creative vision of Troy Tu’ua, Epine Savea, Idalene Ati, Italia Hunt, Jill Karapani and Leki Bourke there is a contemporary flavour that is woven through the movement. Perhaps the scene that is the most stirring (spoiler alert) is the one where Fonunea (MaxineTautalafua) and her beloved (Junior Finau) are surrounded by the high chief (Lance Leo Leone) and his army – in this particular scene the recognisable Samoan Siva still retains its integrity but is charged with a dynamic fluidity.

Tautalafua is both poised and centered in her role as Fonunea, combining a grace and maturity in her movements that is all more powerful when contrasted with Finau’s exuberance and desperate attempts to defend them. Leone also must be applauded for his consistently solid performance that brought much humanity and humour to the traditional antagonist role.

The ensemble are a collective tour de force and each one of them has such potential to change, sculpt, and contribute to theatre and dance. Under the musical direction of Nathan Paseta and Pene Ueta, the ensemble allows much more than a story to simply come alive, they bring the fabric of the world from which it was constructed into immediate proximity for the audience.

Lalelei in Samoan literally means beautiful and the costumes credited to Lalelei by Virginia are exquisite. Both men and women look stunning in these simple and evocative designs and collectively they contribute to an aesthetic that defies conventional categories.

This is a production simmering with creativity and talent at all levels. Don’t miss it.