Krêkvars Students Arts Festival play review (4 stars)
Raw, sensuous and dazzling, Tangaroa is a stirring tale of emotional conflict and yearning for fulfilment with all the bells and whistles of a good drama, only made better with the power of silent motion.
The movement drama begins with an opening dialogue that soon reaches a throbbing crescendo while beside the speaker two other bodies are stirring to life. Behind them is a writhing mass of limbs and torsos that sways and contracts with the punctuated delivery of the speaker. The heightening moments are accompanied competently by the bare, simple but effective soundtrack provided by two instrument players on the far left of the stage who would switch from guitar to bagpipes to guitars as the moment in the scene demanded.
Suddenly there are four things to watch and your eyes dance and cannot keep up with the action to do it justice. Should they land on the speaker, on whose tongue rolls an urgent, stirring declaration of the basic dilemma the play is about,or the sinuous, story-telling motions of the other characters?
The climax finally breaks, the thumping beat drops and the speaker’s chest rises and falls rapidly as she utters her last word. It was so enrapturing I thought that they had decided to gamble and open the play with their pièce de résistance. Only it would get better.
A figure slinks in the left of the curtains. She moves with a high, kicking strut towards something crouched into itself in the centre of the stage with flaming red hair. It moves and rises and tries to lay a sycophantic touch on the regal, strutting figure, but she dismisses it. There follows a sort of tug-of-war between the queen, I shall call her, and the red-haired pestering parasite who attaches herself snugly on the queen and doesn’t let go until the queen relents and walks out of the scene with her hand-in-hand.
This parasite would later return as a feral being with a childish, underdeveloped mind who teaches her new companion, a delicate, white-robed princess, I will call her, how to stand on her head. The princess in a previous scene had express doubt in the usefulness of the romantic affirmation that her heart ‘must go on’ to the accompaniment of an admittedly laughable rendition of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ by Celine Dion for the 1997 epic hit Titanic. She felt as though she had a ‘perpetual sense of being out to sea.’ She attempts to culture her feral… playmate… by teaching her dancing. And several suggestive moments ensue wherein the pair have inquisitive, giddy pauses as they stare into each other’s eyes.
The play is too layered and exciting to elaborate on further and spoil. You have to see it for yourself. But in essence take it that it is more than good value for your money. There is something profoundly satisfying in experience the raw display of constant, exaggerated motion in play. From the soft cracking of bones, the quivering of a straining limb as it supports the rest of the body, and the awkward pause that follows the thudding sound when a character throws himself across the floor.
Tangaroa would not have been my ideal choice of play. In fact, I was told another had been sold out. But the forty-five-minute masterpiece is fun, wonderfully paced and intense. And after watching it I felt it a tragedy that a play with such substance and endowed with a wildly talented cast only received for a head what a pack of chips costs at Oom Gert.