‘Its lonely here in this netherworld’
In a small theatre space above a pub in south London, three powerful performers command the room. Sweet Sinalei (Sani Muliaumaseali’i) has started her first job in a West End show. Her excitement and naivety is sharply contrasted by the strength of veteran Deborah (Ninotchka Tingleff) and fiercely ambitious Salma (Melissa Veszi). All three girls are covers for the same role.
A slightly jumbled hour follows; we hear some beautiful singing and witness the unfolding of some genuinely moving and poignant stories. However you are left longing to know each character more completely. The relationship between these characters also begs for more exploration and fullness. Despite this, there are some lovely moments that shine through with a delicate tenderness and sharp wit.
The great success of this show is the refreshing approach to the representation of transgender issues. Sinalei is a Fa’afafine (a Samoan male who lives as a female) but this status, although clearly present, is not over played, over dramatized or indeed given much attention until we are well into the play. This then develops and culminates in a climatic, shocking moment of tragedy. But its masterfully placed in such a way that you feel you could have missed it, it could have passed you by had you not been listening, had you not been caring. This is the moment. This is the moment of genius that tells us that there is so much more to be seen from Sani Muliaumaseali’i.
Kava Girls offers a mixed theatrical journey but is told with warmth and heart that is rarely found. This type of theatre is indeed vital and deserves attention. It will be exciting to see what is next from Sani Muliaumaseali’i.
© Janina Smith 2016
For upcoming performances of Kava Girls in Manchester and Brighton visit GAFA Samoa’s website.