AIGA – Touch Compass Theatre, dir. by Moana Ete, Te Pou Theatre, Henderson March 20-24

AIGA is Sāmoan for family/whānau. Family is what Lusi Faiva (Lusi’s Story, Tuapou, Mr & Mrs Jones) almost lost, as a child institutionalised with cerebral palsy, then rediscovered. It’s the support of her theatre family now that lifts her up, works with her, helps her tell her story.

This is a tough review to write. Her theatre-piece — three years in the making — is confronting, evocative and at times graceful. It challenges you. Which is what Lusi wants. “I don’t want your pity,” she says. She wants to tell you who she really is. To entertain you. And to make you think.

AigaWe’re greeted with a striking abstract set by Rowan Pierce, an oval with a multi-functional ‘prow’ at one end and moving screens at the other, which do a lot of work. Shadow, silhouette, partial reveals and script all happen on the prow and screens. They dance with Lusi and her three fellow performers, support writer Fiona Collins (Frangipani Perfume, Awhi Tapu, the Vagina Monologues, and AloFA), Iana Grace (The Maid’s Tragedy, All Bi Myself, Shortland Street), and Forest V Kapo (Karanga, Inheritance, Rift and Precipice). Intricate craft-paper costumes and Pacific Couture by Linda Lepou — masks, dresses, headpieces —adorn them and advance Lusi’s story.

Touch Compass has been delivering theatre for over 30 years, pivoting now to be a fully disability-led theatre company. A pioneering task, this is their first disability-led production. There is a sign-language interpreter; before the performance there is a “touch tour” for people with limited vision to physically engage; pre-show scripts are sent out if needed; an audio describer (director Moana Ete) also has the role of narrator, fleshing out some of the stage’s abstractions. Everybody is welcome, with a good feeling in the space.


As a disabled performer and writer, Lusi’s engaging spirit encourages and attracts. Her work here is a “performative scrapbook” of her life, told in a series of scenic tableaux set to music, described by Ete. It is full of music and movement. Moments where my Shihad T shirt wasn’t out of place. Others where Englebert Humperdinck makes an appearance. It tells us what she did, what she wanted to do, what (through Grace and Kapo, Collins and costuming) she imagined herself doing. Film and music introduce us to her two saviours, Mr and Mrs Jones, and the life-giving technology to which they introduced her. Dance and song underpin her dream not to be defined by a disability.

AigaThe thread through the story is loose however, and sometimes breaks. Without the describer’s help the narrative is sometimes difficult to follow. An alienating hospital scene with backward-talk left some confused. Our Warrior Queen shouting “Don’t Touch Me!” was perhaps her plea for independence. Or not?

But the theatrical illusion never falters. And we end with a dance, reflecting perhaps Lusi’s dancing spirit.

My companion at the end said “I’m glad I came.” You will be too.

Theatre Peter

‘Aiga’ is on at Te Pe Pou Theatre, Corban Estate Arts Centre, until Saturday March 24.

NB: All shows are accessible. The spatial design of the performance means that priority seating goes to wheelchair, low vision or blind, d/Deaf or hard of hearing. NZSL and Audio Description have also been seeded in the work. For any queries, please feel free to call Te Pou on 020 4162 2659.


Trailer here.

 Interview here.

 Photo credits Jinki Cambronero