Shel We

If you are a dreamer, come in

If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,

A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…

If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire

For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.

Come In!

Come In!

...sings Invitation, a poesy by Shel Silverstein, setting the scene for this ‘light fantastic’ by choreographer Tupua Tigafua. Five male dancers invite us to join their collage of meanderings informed by Silverstein’s poetry as if shot through a kaleidoscopic canon of generational retellings.

Tigafua leads his ensemble of drab and dusty suits set in nuggety sepia, as they become trees, deer, an ocean, a storm. They play and flow through a ritualistic liminoid. They tease, wonder, drift, battle. They hint at Godot and Buster Keaton. Throughout, their classical training in dance straightens each vertebrae, engages each ligament, demands each step be perfectly in tune with the one before, the one ahead, and those moving beside.  

Festival work should slip through the cracks of convention and genre. This certainly does that. It should converse with the programme as a whole, curatorial offering. This certainly does. It should leave us wondering what on earth we just saw and wanting more. This does. 

For those who witnessed Transfigured Night, here we see the whimsical counter to MAU Wahine, and for those with tickets to The Perfect Gift on Friday, this is that’s matua. 

There are occasional spoken moments, but on the whole this is a wordless rendering of verse, with some rhythms and a few words offered up from Tigafua’s Samoan heritage. 

Together the piece plays out like a Silverstein book, peppered with doodles, conundrums, vexations and mysteries.

So you haven’t got a drum, just beat your belly,

So I haven’t got a horn - I’ll play my nose.

...says Ourchestra, and these dancers do that: play their own bodies to devise tellings of quirky stories that seem to flit from our fingertips just as they begin to feel familiar. Shadow hands, a tiny candle-lit galleon, a gyrating and strobing tango with torches, all thread layers together to deliver a surprising, and terrifically ‘festival’ offering. And leave us wishing we had the words to explain to those who weren’t there what we’d just witnessed... what they’d just missed.

Would you like to hear

Of the terrible night

When I bravely fought the -


All right.

...The Battle challenges. The challenge ahead for us is to spot these precious finds when the Festival Programme is launched, so as not to miss them. We must become brave and intrepid festival-philes, fan-boys who follow talent like Tigafua and hunger for what he brings us next. We need to get good at researching what’s heading our way, at taking a punt, dragging in our children for a touch o’ ‘kulcha’. The talent does half the job, they gather the inspiration, shape the story, tweak the issues, hit the road, do the do night after night. The other half is up to us, the audience, we need to feed on the wonders that come our way or we risk becoming under-nourished, un-cultured sprats.

The little fish eats the tiny fish,

The big fish eats the little fish - 

So only the biggest fish get fat.

Do you know any folks like that?


(All poems taken from Shel Silverstein’s collection Where the Sidewalk Ends (Evil Eye Music, 1974))

Review by Jessica Soutar Barron

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