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Above left: Anne Golding, Derek Lynch & Trevor Jamieson.

Above right: Trevor Jamieson.

Photos: Tony Lewis.

POSTED: 09 MAY 2010

Nyuntu Ngali (You We Two), by Scott Rankin

Windmill & Big hArt & Sydney Theatre Company | Wharf 2, Walsh Bay, Sydney | Until 14 May

Nyuntu Ngali (You We Two) is an absolute visual and aural delight that uses dance, song, music, narrative, projected images and crafted timber ... yes, crafted timber ... to tell a beautifully poignant, touching and sometimes very funny story.

The work has evolved through collaborations by Tasmania’s Big hArt and Adelaide-based Windmill companies with the Pitjantjatjara people of Central Australia, and there are obviously very strong indigenous currents running through the performance — in the dance, in the music and in the language.

As the play opens, Eva (Anna Golding) is about to give birth to her child by Roam (Derek Lynch). The baby is already there in spirit, its ghost being played by Trevor Jamieson, the most experienced actor of the trio and one whose calm and poise are absolutely central to the story that unfolds.

Eva and Roam are a loving, passionate couple but they’re also outcasts because of their “wrong skin” relationship ... and very much fugitives fearing for their own lives and that of their newborn son.

They’re back in the bush, hunting and gathering, keeping out a keen weather eye for danger and lovingly tending their offspring.

But it’s the time frame that delivers the twist and gives the story a universality way beyond its Aboriginal roots.

We’re in the 22nd century, in a world ravaged by climate change ... a world where hunting and gathering have again become the norm; where email, iPods and Twitter have disappeared; where oil has become an absolute rarity.

While the message is a very serious one, both personally for Eva and Roam, who ultimately lose their beloved baby, and from a social perspective, there is also outstanding, sometimes light-hearted, sometimes double-edged humour.

The baby’s very name is both humorous and challenging ... Petrol ... “smells much nicer than Caltex,” declares Eva.

And there are some delightful references to the city losing its mojo — and its cultural history — as climate change bites, renders the big pond in the sky useless, and drives people into the bush looking for sustenance. Not to mention Eva’s and Roam’s tiffs about who’s pulling the most weight in terms of domestic duties and procuring food.

Writer/director Scott Rankin and choreographer Gina Rings (a long-time Bangarra collaborator) have elicited truly outstanding performances from Golding, Lynch and Jamieson, and lighting designer Nigel Levings shows an extremely deft touch.

The music, composed, arranged and hauntingly performed on guitar by Beth Sometimes, is simply mesmerising. The simple mag-wheel-based percussion support of Jennifer Wells adds another perfect layer of experience, as do the visual effects she achieves by sprinkling earth on an overhead projector.

And what of the woodcraft constructed by Elliat Rich, listed in the program as “objects designer”?

A rare stage highlight indeed. A cube (I guess a metre on all sides) that breaks down into smaller cubes and rectangular prisms that not just contain meticulously turned and crafted implements but also fold out into structures that are easily imagined as animal skins, birds, implements and shelters.

Nyuntu Ngali only has a relatively short season. It should demand your attention.

NOTE: While you’re at Wharf 2, make sure to stroll along the gallery and have a look at Portraits from the Edge: Putting a Face to Climate Change, an exhibition of wonderful black-and-white photographs by Jon Lewis, who has spent a deal of time in Kiribati, the small Pacific republic seemingly doomed to rising sea levels.

CLICK HERE to email Oz Baby Boomers with a comment regarding this play or review.

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