From Fiji to Fife - consequences of climate change highlighted in St Andrews

The cast of ' Moana: The Rising of the Sea' in St Andrews
The cast of ' Moana: The Rising of the Sea' in St Andrews

A colourful troupe of 30 Fijian dancers have arrived in St Andrews for the UK debut of a play about climate change.

The group – an ensemble of dancers and singers from the University of the South Pacific – is in Fife for a three day run of Moana: The Rising of the Sea at the University’s Byre Theatre.

Moana is an ambitious play that hopes to raise awareness of global warming through the medium of performing arts.

The unique form of storytelling will see real people – Pacific islanders – portray their culture, family and values; everything they are set to lose through climate change.

The run of six shows over three days at the Byre will be the first and only UK appearance and the second stop of Moana’s first international tour.

Moana brings to St Andrews an internationally acclaimed team featuring members of the Oceania Dance Theatre & Pasifika Voices Ensemble. The choir is led by Musical Director and creator of the original score, Igelese Ete, who was the New Zealand Choirmaster for Peter Jackson’s acclaimed film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

The cast and crew will be a visible presence in St Andrews in the two days preceding Wednesday’s first show, taking to the streets to promote the performance, as well as raise awareness of the wider issue of global warming. They will also spend time with local school children, who will be attending the day-time performances and taking part in educational workshops.

Speaking in advance of Moana’s UK debut in St Andrews, its director and choreographer Peter Espiritu, said: “Moana means ‘the sea’, and it also means ‘the people’. Through performance of traditional dance forms the island people tell the story of the rising of the islanders to meet the challenge of the rising sea.”

The exclusive St Andrews performance came about through long-standing academic links between the University’s Centre for Pacific Studies (CPS) and the University of the South Pacific’s Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies.

The Centre for Pacific Studies at the University of St Andrews is the only centre of its kind in the UK. The CPS was pivotal in the establishment of the European research network set up to inform the EU’s understanding and activities in the Pacific.

This summer, the first ever woman from Papua New Guinea (PNG) will graduate with a PhD from St Andrews – Dr Fiona Hukula is just the fifth person from PNG to complete a PhD; her husband Dr Simon Kenema, who will also graduate from St Andrews in June, is the sixth.

Dr Tony Crook, director of the CPS, said: “Pacific peoples are the least responsible but are the first affected by global warming and sea-level rise. I’ve just been in Samoa, Fiji and Kiribati and the consequences of climate change are a daily reality. When you’re on a tiny, flat, half submerged atoll with the ocean expanding just below your feet, it really brings home what our own carbon dependency and the consequences dramatised by Moana are all about.”

The Fife run follows Moana’s first appearance in Europe at the Bergen International Festival and will be followed by an appearance at the European Parliament in Brussels on June 23.

Moana: The Rising of the Sea takes place at the Byre Theatre on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week and there are daytime and evening performances).

Tickets are available from the Byre Theatre box office, call 01334 475 000, or book online at byretheatre.com.