On Sunday 6th July a line of people stretched from the door of Wan Smolbag’s main Theatre to the road running past the youth centre, all trying to get into Laef I Swit, the Smolbag show that finished a week of International Theatre at Wan Smolbag. The main festival ran from Sunday 29th June to Sunday 6th July 2014. Both the youth and main theatre at Wan Smolbag were packed by more than 500 people filling the 2 theatres each night with many still being turned away.
The festival started with a march through town on the morning of Saturday 28th, culminating in a spectacular circus and hip hop performances with a dance by African Tree and an aerial act by Polytoxic, at the seafront stage, to publicise the festival.
People came in their hundreds to see plays and dance at the centre. African Tree, a physical theatre group from South Africa amazed us with their ability to make everything real only using their bodies and no props; Paitya, an Aboriginal dance group kept the audience spellbound with their graceful mix of traditional and modern dance; Polytoxic, a mix of Polynesian and Australian dance and acrobatic artists, came with a wild show that shook the theatre. There were local groups like Rainbow Theatre, whose play Pikinini Blong Seaview touched hundreds of hearts; Heltfos Theatre and youth centre hiphop groups New Generation, Unite Dance Group, Ice MC and Wan Smolbag’s own Turtle Play. Our Turtle Play was first performed in 1995 and was the play that started the turtle monitor network run by the late George Petro, the winner of the Global Turtle Champion award. The program was complemented by Steve Noonan, who works with primary age children and does amazing things with hoops, and, Groovy Banana, a dance duo also performed for the festival.
Blacksands Beach was another venue for the festival. For three nights hundreds of people came out to watch Wan Smolbag’s Vanua Fire and Sunset Circus and the popular Young Life band along with Polytoxic’s show, Trade Winds, an extraordinary dance on water, which lit up the whole area and delighted the crowd.
The first artists to come to the Festival were the Musical Island Boys, who arrived on June 17 on their way to Las Vegas, where they were competing in the Global Barbershop Quartet competition. They ran a three day workshop in choral harmonies and a capella quartet singing, culminating in a night of song on Friday 20th June, attended by over 300 people. Groups from Pentecost, Santo and Vila performed and charmed audiences with their singing. The Musical Island Boys also performed and the audience went wild. The four Polynesian young men using only the amazing power of their voices left everyone desperate to hear more, but they had to go on to the US, where they have just come first in the world in the International Barbershop Quartet contest. Must have been the kava
The international groups from the main festival also ran a week of workshops at the youth centre with Wan Smolbag’s circus groups and dance groups as well as workshop on physical theatre run by the director of African Tree. The festival has not only entertained the public of Port Vila but has built the capacity of local actors and circus performers who have been inspired to reach for new levels in their own work. The youth centre theatre was also upgraded for the festival and now is a beautiful space with a backdrop of bamboo and local mats in the roof.