Crashing the Takurua rehearsal for Elemental AKL
Mai journo Mon catches up with her cuzzies who are behind the theatre and feasting show Takurua
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We crashed a rehearsal of Takurua - the Pasifika theatre and feasting show you don't wanna miss

Five courses of mouth-watering kai woven into an unreal cultural performance.

In August, Takurua's immersive fine dining and theatre experience will arrive at Elemental AKL festival for a third year - and it looks like it could be the best show yet. 

If you haven't heard of it - trust me - you also haven't seen anything quite like it in Aotearoa. 

Takurua is a cultural experience that brings to life a different ancient legend each year along with a five-course banquet of indigenous fusion food that directly relates to the show you're watching. 

Sound good, right? If I'm being honest, I am a just a liiiiittle biased - the creatives behind the show actually happen to be my whānau. 

My cousin Tausani Simei-Papali'i is the artistic director who first dreamed up the concept while working as a chef in Rarotonga, and his sister Kolopa Simei-Barton is the Associate Producer, and has previously been the show's narrator. 

Kolopa performing in Takurua 2022 Kolopa performing in Takurua 2022

"I think for a long time, our stories haven't been told by us or for us," Kolopa said when Mai visited one of the show's rehearsals. 

"As Pasifika people, quite often it's the outside world giving a narrative on our lives and our history and our culture. 

"So for us to be able to reintroduce these ancient practices and tell these beautiful stories in a fun, creative new way - it explores the tapu and pushes the boundary of the tapu and lets us grow and explore and bring the tapu and the ancient into the modern world and contemporise it." 

Takurua 2022 Takurua told the tale of the war goddess Nafanua in 2022

This year, the tale is of Ti'iti'i - a mischievous demi-God similar to Maui, who challenged the Gods. 

"He goes through this emotional turmoil of 'who am I?' - just like every mixed-blooded person," Kolopa explained.  

"He's not God enough to be a God, not man enough to be a man, and thinks 'I'm never going to fit in either world, so what am I going to do?'." 

A raw fish dish audiences will be served at Takurua - Ti'iTi'i Sacred Knowledge A raw fish dish audiences will be served at Takurua - Ti'iTi'i Sacred Knowledge

Audiences are treated to delicacies like salted pork belly and kasava carpaccio and trevally and coconut oka while they take in the all-singing, all-dancing performance, where actors seamlessly transition from comedy to raw emotion.

We got a taste of one of the unreal raw fish dishes at rehearsal, and even the cast couldn't believe how excellent the food was.

"Go hard or go home," Tausani said of taking on such a multi-faceted project. "That's what makes it so special - there's a lot going on. You kind of don't know where you are, don't know what's going on but you know you're enjoying it."

Chefs Tausani Simei-Papali'i and Wallace Mua Frost Chefs Tausani Simei-Papali'i and Wallace Mua Frost

Sani, along with collaborator Wallace Mua Frost from Kingi, is keen to break down cultural barriers when it comes to bringing Pacific flavours to all Kiwis. 

"You don't have to be Spanish to eat Spanish food," he told us. 

"It's the same for us - you don't have to be Māori or Pacific to eat our food. We would love for you to eat our food, just so you can understand us a bit more." 

Takurua Ti'iti'i Sacred Knowledge is part of Elemental AKL 2023, and will have a six-show run at Auckland's Viaduct Event Centre on August 4th, 5th and 6th, including matinee and evening performances. Tickets start at $180 per person. 

Shot and edited by Arju Pun