Based on historical events in the early 19th century, ‘The Battle of Kuamo’o’ is fought between the Hawaiian monarchy and rebels, over conflicting interests in the tradition of kapu. This state of law, which declares (among other things) that men and women cannot eat together, is enshrined in the national culture and therefore is fiercely protected. The conflict depicted in this opera revolves around attempts at overthrowing tradition, and the costs of getting there.
The performances are what make this show, as the ensemble cast work together perfectly to create atmosphere and tension in place of any set design. Their dedication to the story and what it represents clearly shines through, and the choreography of the dance and fight sequences is never cluttered or clumsy.
They make good use of the space, emphasising the strength of the collective. Individual performances also impress: Kayla Enanoria as Manono is particularly wonderful, with a great voice and undeniable stage presence.
However, at times the presentation of the story drags, feeling too long and confusing. Lots of characters makes identifying their motivations and relationships to one another difficult, therefore involving a lot of checking the programme synopsis.
This opera is a sombre story of cultural, civil war in Hawaii, presented with respect and talent. Overall, it is an engaging production that is steeped in heritage.