REVIEW: Bran Nue Dae by Jimmy Chi and the Kuckles – Opera Australia in partnership with Sydney Festival, Riverside Theatre. From Jan 17.

1 year ago
Joshua Maxwell

From the outset, I must state I am not a first nations person, I can only view this work from that perspective. I feel awkward casting subjective opinion on a first nations work, well I would if I didn’t like the show… but I loved it.

Bran Nue Dae, is simply art. It doesn’t conform to any style of storytelling, it’s created it’s own path in Australia’s complex arts industry since it’s premiere 30 years ago. Telling the story of a young man searching for himself as he travels from Perth to his country north of Broome.

Tara Gower’s choreography infuses cultural dance and contemporary dance in a deeply moving way. Sadly opening night audio issues made moments of Andrew Ross’s direction clunky, and it wasn’t until later in act one I felt I was able to see his vision, and appreciate his intricate use of Mark Thompson’s versatile static set.

The driving force behind this work is undeniably the music, the late Jimmy Chi and The Kuckles’ rock score provides 2 hours of powerful rock intercut with poignant moments of storytelling, and stunning ballads providing possibly one of the greatest scores ever written for Australian stages. This reviewer could listen to this cast sing this score forever.

The cast is lead by the legendary Erine Dingo, it’s simply a privilege to see him in this role, Dingo’s performance of the cheeky Uncle Tadpole is one of those performances I will carry with me throughout my life. His performance of song ‘Listen To The News’ is simply spine tingling.

Marcus Corowa’s Willie is refined and well matched to Teresa Moore’s bold Rosie. Callan Purcell as spaced our German hippie with a secret linage, Slippery, owns this role and gives one of the works stand out performances vocally and theatrically.

The rest of the company are also frighteningly talented and make light work of the piece’s demanding requirements of them.

As the story unfurls before us, as does the rich cultural history and traditions of first nations people. The show had a lot of say 30 years ago about issues facing first nations people, and sadly, we don’t seem to have found any answers or made enough progress, if you don’t leave the theatre feeling slightly ashamed or angered, you haven’t truly being engaging in the material.

The voices of First Nations people should be the most powerful in our country on their issues, it was disappointing that the 4th person to speak during the post-show reception, was the first indigenous one.

If you have them; cast aside you European perceptions’ of theatre and embrace Bran Nue Dae for it’s rich story telling, unwavering energy, and immense spirit. When it opened last Friday night, just 17 days into the year, it took the title of best show of 2020.

Bran Nue Dae tours nationally throughout this year – don’t miss it.

– Joshua Maxwell

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The Independent Arts Journal Acknowledges all first nations people as the traditional owners of these lands. We acknowledge their Elders past, present, and emerging. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

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