Assembly George Square Theatre
Aug 16-20, 22-27 (16.30)
Ten years ago, a youtube clip was posted from a community called Galiwinku, located on a small remote Island called Elcho Island, at the very top end of Australia. It was of some native aborigines doing Zorba The Greek, & it went rather viral. Its protagonists loved to dance, y’see, of among whose number, Baykali Ganambarr gave a recent interview to the Mumble in which he described his family’s love of dancing; ‘When I was a kid I saw my family dance, my uncles, brothers and father mainly traditional in ceremonies. Then I started to get inspired by my uncle who performed with Bangara. I started off with traditional, then came pop ’n’lock, break dance, hip hop and pretty much everything else. Being a kid in small community and watching the first DJUKI MALA dance I wanted to be with this company, in fact I needed to be there.’
Djuki Mala was the troupe formed after Zorba went viral, who have gone on to tour the world. A decade later their show is a slick piece of physical theatre played out in front of & inbetween wee films which tell the story of the group also their heritage. ‘Despite the past we are still here,‘ says someone from Elcho Island in a film, & for me, the start of the show is the best, when I felt as if I was a colonial inspector on her majesty’s business, sitting beside some tribal chief while his bravest warriors before the ancient dances of the tribe. Amazing stuff, with a recorded didgeridoo – liek a bee on crystal meth – entwining with the shamanic chants of some Aboriginal elder, & the five painted boys piercing the stage-air with spear & limb : an amazing treat.
But then things changed. They’re right little vibe merchants are Djuki Mala, & have decided to present dance routines sprung from their love contemporary music; disco, hip-hop, old musicals, etc. & proceeded to give us a mish-mash of material. The quality was not in question, but the subject matter was a bit Butlins, & incongruous to say the least. The show had rapidly ran away from its proud roots & entered something underneath contemporary dance, a showcase of populist entertainment which of course pleases the masses – & if that’s what you want they do it more than fantastically well – but for me things had gone wildly awry. Yet, we are ALL members of the global village now & Djuki Mala are supreme representations of that. Both proud to be who they are & excited to be able to absorb international culture, repackage it & present back to us it for our entertainment. is to be commended, but I personally I wanted more Aboriginal material, for everything else they did is just a youtube clip away.
Reviewer : Damo