Marrugeku's latest work Burning Daylight melds together theatre, dance, song and video to take its audience on a journey through the current day tensions and past cultural conflicts that are an inherent part of life in Broome.
Broome has always been a melting pot of cultures. For centuries the local inhabitants had been trading with their near neighbours to the north. Then came the Europeans and, by the turn of last century, Broome was home to pearl fishers, cattle workers and all the elements that go to create an outback town that became known as an Asian Wild West. Today it is a tourist destination offering white sand beaches and crystal clear ocean waters and has the largest Japanese cemetery in Australia.
Today's young people in Broome, like those across the world, are left to deal with complex identities inherited from the past and imposed by a modern globalised world. This conflict lies at the heart of Burning Daylight.
It's Karaoke night at the Gheko Bar. They've had their crab-racing night and their wet T-shirt night, tonight the locals can give their vocal chords a work-out. One by one a group of young people are thrown out of the pub.
A lone cowboy, Trevor Jamieson comes swaggering into town, stockwhip cracking, bringing with him echoes of the past. There is the geisha girl, Yumi Umiumare; the pearl fisher, Sermsah Bin Saad; and the lovers, Dalisa Pigram and Scott Grayland. Each has a story to tell, a story of love and loss, of a time when the White Australia Policy ruled with an iron fist. Each of these stories is brought alive in dance, song and film.
Videos by Warrick Thornton work beautifully to integrate the whole, linking past and present. The words to the karaoke songs appear on screens set on opposite sides of the stage, so that the geisha girl is visually separated from the cowboy, the pearl fisher from his wife and child, the young coloured girl from her white lover. The split emphasises the barriers to be crossed, or not, as fate or the law decide. Old style film posters announcing films soon to be coming to the Sun Theatre - Stir Fry, Troubled Waters, Black Pearl – introduce each of the videos and historical images of Broome and newspaper headlines recall the past and its racist attitudes.
These conflicts are vividly recreated in the dance, where the choreography, by Serge Aime Coulibaly assisted by Dalisa Pigram, succeeds in blending modern hip hop and break dancing, with martial arts, Japanese dance and traditional Aboriginal dance.
Conceived by Rachael Swain (co-founder of Marrugeku) and Dalisa Pigram and created through a rehearsal process aimed at exploring the Broome community's past and present, Burning Daylight is a multi-faceted and complex work. It is full of energy and passion, dance and song, humour and despair, hopes and dreams. It has grown out of a very specific experience and yet it speaks to all of us. You will not be left untouched.
Venue: Arts House, Meat Market | 5 Blackwood St, North Melbourne
Dates: Thu 19 - Sun 22 November
Times: Thu – Sat 7.30pm, Sun 4pm (70 minutes no interval)
Tickets: Full $25; Concession $18
Bookings: artshouse.com.au or 03 9639 0096