Marrugeku never loses the power to grab at the heart in surprising ways. Two years ago Jurrungu Ngan-ga [Straight Talk] over-flowed with huge emotions and a burning desire to give names and faces to jailed First Nations people, long-sequestered refugees and people whose lives defy the norm. It was a big, stirring piece of dance theatre performed with ferocious energy by a cast of 10.
This year’s Sydney Festival sees the world premiere of a strikingly different work, Mutiara. It was commissioned by the Perth Festival and opens there in February.
The subject is Broome’s famous pearling industry, one that in earlier days was notable for its exploitation of workers, including First Nations people and indentured Malays. A topic, in other words, tailormade for Marrugeku’s unique intercultural perspective.
The industry’s history would lead one to expect a work bristling with anger but Mutiara defies that expectation. It doesn’t shy away from wrongs but Mutiara is not a polemic. Constructed from personal experiences and shards of history, it’s a surprisingly delicate, otherworldly memory piece into which one has to...