Clever, Impactful, Hilarious Theatre: A Review of Fala Muncher
“Bring a spare pair of undies because you're going to get WET.”
The tag line for Fala Muncher on my IG feed recommended this. As an aunty in a committed relationship, I didn’t follow these instructions, but I did wear a panty liner just in case.
Fala Muncher presented by Basement Theatre is a Pasifika, queer-led production, that is joyful, and poignant in its storytelling of queer identity, love, familial ties, cultural obligation and wrestling with ourselves. Thoughtfully directed by Amanaki Prescott-Faletau featuring three solo acts by Jaycee Tanuvasa, Lyncia Muller, and Disciple Pati. Lighting/sound by Mahia Dean with clever set design by Dan Williams and produced by Amanda Wilson.
I haven’t been in a lobby so brown, with such glowing skin and people who look and sound like my cousins at a queer, Pasifika theatre event before. It made me want to learn how to take care of my skin. And learn how to wear highlighter. (Someone teach me how to use TikTok).
Trying to get a drink at the bar reminded me of my clubbing days. The audience was packed, the energy was festive and full of anticipation. As the audience kiki around me I read Lyncia Muller’s, creators note on the program. The genesis of Fala Muncher started brewing in her last year at PIPA (which abruptly closed in 2017). I wasn’t here when it closed but I always worry about where our Pasifika talent is being fostered with no arts programs occurring in south side.
We begin with Go Hibiskiss Go by Jaycee Tanuvasa. She struts in and starts talking to us like she’s our aunty giving us the do’s and don’t’s of the go-go world, like we could be one of her girls. She’s witty, cutting and tender all in one (as a good aunty should be). Throughout her monologue latecomers keep coming in disturbing the world she is creating but she doesn’t let that phase her and she still manages to hold our attention – which is a testament to her skills as a performer.
Using her voice, body and movement she holds dichotomies and tells us two stories with the lighting supporting this play with light and dark and the murky in-between. Tanuvasa dances between the two monologues which let the words sink in, creating a necessary vā and relational space, between the perspectives. The most powerful image for me was when she was unraveling the hibiscus flower. She calls out queer labels like fa’atama, and fa’afafine, which felt like a powerful ritual. At first, I thought the audience was calling out with a kiususu, but it was Tanuvasa herself, conjuring.
Language has always been important for me, words hold power and when I was first trying to figure out my queerness I thought if I could find a word in Sāmoan it might make sense. Through this search fa’atama came up and even though it doesn't fully resonate with how I view myself hearing someone say it, on stage, was really empowering.
Fala Muncher is three stories and we move into the second act, The Fearfall with the set design supporting a clever interlude. A video projects onto one of the screens featuring the cast discussing what kind of queer are you. This is the YouTube content my queer heart needed when I was younger. Even my current self. More of this please.
Then we meet Billie, (Muller) using the screens as a bed, a wall showing us that push/pull of sex, what you like and then having to answer to your dad (and not your daddy). She hilariously uses the set to reveal that she works at Rainbow’s End. She’s a crowd pleasing, endearing performer with her deftly jumping between characters with ease.
I loved Billie, her enthusiasm, and her encouraging the audience ‘to come out, fuck what others say.’ We meet Leilani, a closeted lover of Billie’s. As someone who is only out to certain parts of my family I resonated with Billie and Leilani. I have been both of them.
I first explored my queerness when I lived overseas so it was fascinating for me to watch queerness and dating in an Aotearoa context and even going to a ‘look out’ with someone, things I never experienced.
As the set is struck for the last act, The One You Feed with Disciple Pati we get another video. The cast talks about what is love, dates and what are their dealbreakers. The audience is screaming with laughter and I repeat I can’t wait until these videos are released as a series on a social media platform.
We open with a stool, a spotlight and a hooded figure sitting there, singing ‘Bang bang, my baby shot me down.’ I immediately thought of the childhood tale, Red Riding Hood and the story of the wolf. Disciple Pati is an incredible singer and weaves us through the retelling of this tale intoxicatingly while a live band accompanies her.
As she sings about the wolf and this hunger, to devour someone it makes me think of aggression and sex. Growing up I felt like I was socialized to be pursued by men but when I started to date women, reconciling wanting someone, making a move and not wanting to be seen as aggressive is something I had to wrestle with while dating. I don’t want to go into too much detail but this last work was an unexpected and powerful end to the night.
It is a testament to the creative team and direction by Amanaki Prescott-Faletau that Fala Muncher feels like a cohesive work. These three distinct, powerful stories use a mixture of movement, monologue and sound to tell each distinct story and it is affirming, exciting, and most importantly sexy theatre to watch. And I want more.
Fala Muncher – a derogatory term is instead through this work turned into a celebration of us- queer Pasifika community. This show explores sex unabashedly. Of wanting each other. What a magical, heady, roller coaster of an experience it is to love each other and ourselves. I loved that there was no shame, even closeted characters like Leilani were handled with care and consideration.
Watching this I wondered what it would have been like to watch this as a teenager. I asked my girlfriend if it would have changed her trajectory and she said yes. Afterwards to finish our date we broke some rules – went through a drive thru – went to a lookout (the street around the corner from the McDonald’s) and talked about sexuality, queerness, non-sexual intimacy and how much we loved the show.
Fala Muncher is clever, impactful, hilarious theatre centring queer Pasifika narratives which we need to see more of. And please team release more videos on social media, my queer heart would follow in an instant.