It’s show time!
Wan Smolbag’s theatre festival is kicking off!
Decades after it was born as a courageous band of actors with—literally—nothing but one small bag of props to work with, Wan Smolbag theatre has become a creative powerhouse with a raft of entertaining, insightful and soul-building shows. This year opens with three big events: A new workshop production led by acclaimed British director Laurie Samson; a sprawling, energetic drama exploring the lives of Port Vila’s market vendors titled “ol Mama’; and a re-imagining of last year’s marquee production, ‘Heart Problem’.
Shows run every week on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Book your tickets well in advance and make sure to arrive early, because shows sell out quickly and houses are often packed to the rafters.
YU STAP WEA?
‘Yu stap Wea?’ directed by a well-known UK director, Laurie Sansom, opened at Wan Smolbag last week. The play was improvised by six actors with Laurie. Helen Kailo said it was exciting to create the play from scratch. ‘We’ve improvised short plays in the past but this was an hour long play which was quite a challenge.’
The play follows six different people over the course of a single day; a single mum, a dubious businessman, a policeman, a 15 year old who skips school to join a friend in a gang wandering around town and lastly Suango from Pango, who has never really got his life together. He spends most of his time in a haze of kava.
By the end of the play their lives collide at Chiefs Nakamal where they all face their own crises. The play is beautifully acted and choreographed. As it moves at great speed from location to location, it is also tracked on a giant blackboard on the wall.
The play looks at the forces that impact on people in Vila today from conmen to disillusioned youth to the huge disparity between rich and poor as in the scene when Suango, played by Ritchie Toka, wanders around a show room full of very expensive cars. This was one of many comic highlights in the play which takes a darker tone at the end as Suango is finally roused to action against his ex- schoolmate, now a corrupt policeman and the policeman’s conman uncle.
Yu Stap Wea has proved very popular and is performed in the new studio theatre/cinema at Wan Smolbag. In the second half of the evening, WSB is showing two episodes from its new TV series Dedlaf.
If you want to see this play, or the other play in the main house, Ol Mama, you need to book either at WSB front office or outside the old government buildings in town. Every show so far has been sold out and unless you buy in advance you may not get a seat.
All the main actors of WSB come together Saturdays for some performances of last year’s popular play Heart Problem, a play about poverty and abuse, centred around life in a settlement. Tickets for this are on sale at the old government buildings opposite the market.
All these plays are part of WSB’s 30th anniversary festival
Theatre, Dance and More…
The festival starts with a week-long hiphop competition from 17th June to 22nd June, sponsored by TVL, featuring dancers from Vanuatu, Australia and New Zealand. The following two weeks feature daily shows and activities at WSB, running from 24th June to the 5th
of July. The company will be joined by the world champion barbershop quartet singers from New Zealand, the Musical Island Boys, who performed at our 25th anniversary and were loved by everyone who saw them. They will run a week-long workshop with singers from within the theatre group and the youth centre. They will then perform twice, the first time singing a range of songs and talking about how they came to sing them and the second time performing with the groups they have trained over the time of the workshop.
WSB will also showcase Yellaka, a contemporary aboriginal dance group, whose name means ‘old wisdom new ways’ in language. The group grooms young aboriginal artists and performers who perform with grace and panache. The group encourages cultural learning through storytelling and the contact with elders.
A street act performer from Australia, jugglers and hiphop dancers from Vanuatu will also be part of the shows at the festival.
Yellaka and Vanua Faea will combine to present a fire show at Blacksands, on the beach. In the last week of June, Wan Smolbag will also run an exhibition alongside films and some shows at the Alliance Francaise.
A New Hip Hop Musical
The festival includes performances of Wan Smolbag’s Youth drama’s hiphop musical, Darling Wife, which received a glowing review earlier this year in the Daily post, and WSB’s recent show about the reef, Twist and Spin. Twist and Spin was commissioned by the Pathways project that is part of the department of fisheries and has toured Tafea earlier this year. It follows the life of a young woman who goes to live with her husband on the island the changes in her own life and on the reef over the years.
More Than Just Theater
Wan Smolbag Youth Centre will also hold open days when people can come and sample all the different programs that go on. Many people who visit WSB are surprised to discover that it is not just a theatre company but that there are sports facilities a swimming club, basket and volley ball, futsal and hockey, a clinic, a nutrition centre that serves delicious food, with a large garden and a youth centre with hiphop, dance exercise classes, literacy classes, karate, boxing, sewing, art and computer! If you come along to the open days on Friday 28 June and Monday 1 July you can try out some of these as well as seeing shows and films and all for free.
Posters and fliers are in the final stages of preparation and you can also keep checking for updates on the Wan Smolbag facebook page. Hopefully tickets for all shows during the festival will be on sale shortly in town. Paragraph
The festival is funded by WSB’s core partners The aid programs of the governments of Australia and New Zealand as well as Oxfam. We are also grateful for additional support to the festival from Law and Partners.
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