UPU, Q Theatre, 6 March 2020: Theatre Review

The world is vast and full – so full, we cannot possibly know everything that exists in it. Luckily, UPU brings a piece of that vast unknown to light. Here is Chloe Bagayas review.

UPU, which translates to “words” in Samoan, is an inspiring spoken word performance directed by Fasitua Amosa and curated by Grace Taylor. The duo have put on developments of this work before at Basement Theatre, and are now bringing it to Q Rangatira as part of the Auckland Arts Festival. It exhibits a range of poetry by writers hailing from all regions of the Pacific, and features a captivating cast of seven; Mia Blake, Ana Corbett, Nicola Kāwana, Nathaniel Lees, Shadon Meredith, Gaby Solomona, and Jarod Rawiri.

The show, in essence, is a spoken word performance, but the staging is not your classic, end-on stage with a few mics for each performer. The set, although minimal, confronts you upon entrance with its jagged black ramps that make up the stage. But as an audience you are also drawn in, thanks to the traverse seating set up, which allows you to not only be closer to the actors, but to also see the audience across and their reactions to the performed poems.

Taylor’s selection of poems was enlightening, honest, and compelling. Upon flicking through the programme before the show began, I was already intrigued by titles such as “Two Nudes on a Tahitian Beach,” “A Pakeha Friend Tells A Maori Joke,” and “SPAM’s Carbon Footprint.” This last poem was a stand out for me. Performed by Shadon Meredith, it was one of the more lighthearted and comedic poems, while still conveying an underlying, serious message.

Overall, the show presented an overarching theme of temper towards colonisation, and the resulting loss of the gorgeous Pasifika culture to the tourism industry, among other things. This is an issue one may not always think about, especially in this time where worldly issues are plentiful, but it is nonetheless an important one.

Through the poetry displayed in UPU our eyes are opened to the values, traditions, and quirks of Pasifika culture, and how the people are so grounded in and driven by their culture. The performance itself aids the very issue that it highlights, by giving all the beautiful works of Pacific literature that have gone astray, a platform to be performed and most importantly, heard.

After the show I felt an urge to go and read more of what Pasifika literature and the culture as a whole has to offer. The show is a call to appreciate the beauty of what often goes unseen and unheard in this world, and it was a privilege to watch.

~Chloe Bagayas

UPU is playing at Q Theatre through Sunday Mar 15 2020
More information and ticket sales are HERE.