How has this work changed (thematically, personally, etc.) since starting this residency at La Boite?
Natano: March was pretty much the starting point of this production AMATAGA. Teaming together was a seed project, as we were first trying to figure out if we could work together. Thankfully, after two days, we were like “yes, we can do this”.
We met at La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre, to get to know each other's personalities, characteristics, cultures, and, from there, how to approach a project centred around initiation practices. But since then, a lot has happened to the world, so yes it has changed.
It’s been really nice hearing everyone's developments in self-discovery. Some of us are really learning, in leaps and bounds, about themselves, their culture and the ceremony around initiation. That’s the beauty of being in isolation, locked down and being stuck with my parents: I’m learning Samoan, the language.
One element that won’t change, is that if we choose to speak as part of the project, we will only speak in our own tongues. CASUS has historically done shows that evoke emotion and messages with no spoken word, but maybe that’s something we should explore for this project. Sanja Simic, La Boite’s Creative Producer, is helping us find the vocal coach if we want to move forward with this element. Personally, I really like the idea of talking on stage, especially in our own languages, because it’s a great way to explore so many rich cultures within one space.
Mayu: For me, having two days at La Boite’s HWY Festival of New Work in March really kickstarted my eagerness, interest and passion for the project. If it wasn't for that two days of development and meeting everyone personally, it would have been totally different right now, in terms of how we approach the research and how we approach each other. It was such a wonderful kickstart for the project.
(Shameless plug: If you missed this year's HWY Festival, snoop our socials for some fabulous event snaps from the two-week work in development festival.)
Why is this a work that local, Brisbane and South-East Queensland audiences should see?
Natano: I grew up in Queensland, Australia, within a predominately white culture. I remember my friends always hanging out my house, because they had a yearning for culture. We're really lucky enough to have these stories, and I think there's always been a fascination about a culture that has stories extending thousands of years. I think people find that interesting, and I love telling it.
It’s nice making a show about First Nations cultures on our terms. We’re determining how we tell it, it's not like we're placed in the production as ‘hired help’ from a larger organisation. I think that culture is endangered in many ways. In this country, for example, the Indigenous culture has historically been one that has been treated so poorly, and even though we say that we're making leaps and bounds and improving that, there’s more we can do.
Mayu: It’s important to explore my cultural identity and connection to my ancestral culture on stage, and how we would physicalise, how we interpret that, and how the different cultures or ancient cultures can come together and find a way to connect us. It’s interesting for people to see and important for people to see.
How do you want to make audiences feel when they see this project?
Natano: I’d like the audience to feel whatever is real. I don't like to force or oblige an audience member to feel anything; it’s their own journey. Their whole life contributes to the experience they will have for that period of time, but I hope they learn something. Whether they enjoy it, don't really care, we just want audiences to feel something. Ultimately, I want them to respect and value culture. If they didn't already, I want them to respect it.
If you had to use three words to describe the project, what would they be?
Mayu: Discoveries, connection and resilience.
Resilience of the cultures and also the current time — we need to push through and make this happen.
Natano: Water, Mana and Knowledge.
Water is a theme we were playing with for AMATAGA. Our lands connect via water, and all of our cultures connect with water in one way or another – just a beautiful symmetry.
Mana is the spirit amongst all the people in Pacific Nations, but extends, I believe, and that’s what keeps the harmony among our people.
Knowledge is exciting to me because, through this process of making AMATAGA, we’re hungry for knowledge and we’re fighting for it — some more than others. In order to make the show as sincere, real and have its integrity, we need to make sure the knowledge is there.
If you had to provide one piece of parting wisdom to aspiring artists or theatre makers, what would it be?
Natano: Make the work for you, not for anyone else.
Mayu: It’s important to stay free, open and creative with your art.
In your own words, how would you describe your new work in development, in one sentence?
Modern interpretations of initiation practices, across four different cultures.