Real life drama as Byre Theatre hosts UK premiere

Moana at the Byre, St Andrews
Moana at the Byre, St Andrews
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An ambitious play depicting the real life drama of climate change in the Pacific is to come to the UK for the first time next week.

The performance, Moana: The Rising of the Sea, will bring 30 Fijian dancers to Scotland for the unique show at the Byre Theatre of the University of St Andrews.

Moana - The Rising of the Sea at the Byre Theatre, St Andrews

Moana - The Rising of the Sea at the Byre Theatre, St Andrews

The unique form of storytelling will see real people – Pacific islanders – portray their culture, family and values; everything they are set to lose through global warming. Through the medium of performing arts, the ensemble hopes to raise more awareness of their nation’s plight.

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

The live theatre experience – which aims to share emotions and experiences not so easily captured in scientific reports - brings together an impressive ensemble of dancers and singers from the University of South Pacific’s Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies.

Using a colourful mixture of poetry, music, dance and drama, Moana tells the story of Pacific peoples at their most vulnerable – and most resistant – under the very real and current threat of global warming.

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 in Suva, Fiji.

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 better inform the EU’s understanding and activities in the Pacific.

Dr Tony Crook, Director of 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.”

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 idea behind the production was borne out of a desire to develop greater empathy and understanding of the real world impacts of climate change, as well as an authentic experience of traditional Pacific dance practices.

Earlier this year St Andrews researchers were caught up in the drama of Cyclone Pam, a force 5 cyclone that devastated a large number of islands in the Pacific nation of Vanuatu. Happily, the two students conducting research in the Pacific region were unharmed, but one of them experienced the cyclone – and the resilience of the islanders – first hand.

Dr Crook continued, “We know what to do about climate change – just not how to do it. Too often, climate change is treated as a matter of belief in science, an effect upon nature that requires a technical intervention. But for social scientists, climate change is a powerful social relationship that intimately connects the life choices of people whose lives are thought of as distant to each other – but as Moana shows, Europeans have a close personal social connection with Pacific Islanders.

“Our respective life choices are inter-connected – and Moana making climate change personal in this way may provoke ideas on how this social relation can be more equitable. Research at the Centre for Pacific Studies aims at restoring the human to climate change in the Pacific.”

Moana was first performed in 2013, at the Japan Information, Communication and Technology Theatre at the University of the South Pacific (USP), in Suva, Fiji, as part of The European Consortium for Pacific Studies (ECOPAS) conference Restoring the Human to Climate Change.

The Fife run follows its 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.

The St Andrews event will also provide an opportunity for visitors to explore immersive, interactive exhibits on the art, biology, mythology, oceanography and volcanology of the expansive Pacific region that covers more than a third of the Earth. Exhibits, spanning three floors of the Byre Theatre, explore natural and cultural forces that have shaped the islands of Melanesia and Polynesia.

The run of six shows over three days - June 10, 11 and 12 - in St Andrews will be the only UK appearance and the second stop of Moana’s first international tour.

For tickets contact the box office,tel. 01334 475000 or visit byretheatre.com.

A trailer of the performance can be viewed here

The performance, Moana: The Rising of the Sea, will bring 30 Fijian dancers to Scotland for the unique show at the Byre Theatre of the University of St Andrews.

The unique form of storytelling will see real people - Pacific islanders - portray their culture, family and values; everything they are set to lose through global warming. Through the medium of performing arts, the ensemble hopes to raise more awareness of their nation’s plight.

The run of six shows over three days - June 10, 11 and 12 - in St Andrews will be the only UK appearance and the second stop of Moana’s first international tour.

For tickets contact the box office,tel. 01334 475000 or visit byretheatre.com.