Caught between country and the jutting, looming buildings of the metropolis, between past, present and future, Maurial Spearim totters on a tight rope. She is Ruby, a young Aboriginal woman with many lives – a story of survival on the bright side, and intergenerational trauma on the dark side.
Wearing a striking white shift dress, she joyously portrays the language, song, dance and cultural traditions of her people, the Gamilaraay. Then seconds later she is mercurially transformed, channeling a proud and fierce Muruuwari warrior woman fighting in the Waterloo Creek massacre in 1938, or Slaughterhouse Creek as it became known.
Skip to the recent past, and she’s entering VCA in Melbourne, stepping away from her family and into the unknown, the first indigenous person at the institution in ten years. Now she’s her privileged white fellow students, tossing their hair and quipping: “Can you give my cat an Aboriginal name?”, and “what’s Aborigine for television”?
Spearim weaves contemporary dance, traditional dance and original songs through her layers of history – a patchwork of pain and celebration which refuses to let us take a back seat.
What it comes down to is existentialism: how can we change things for indigenous people? The inequalities that still exist: the children who are still being taken away, the reduced life expectancy, the racism, the denial of any wrongdoing, the lack of Aboriginal history in our education system? It is our choice, change is our choice, if we choose to make it happen, she says.
Spearim is a passionate powerhouse, and a triple threat: her singing voice is beautiful, her dance moves assured, her acting is brilliant and she has a strong presence. It’s easy to see why she's making a name for herself in both theatre and TV. There are just a few things which belie her youth and inexperience: she stumbled over a few lines, probably due to opening night nerves, and she used a drink bottle on stage which looked incongruous amongst the symbolic set.
Nevertheless, Spearim is without a doubt a talent to watch, evident from the audience’s standing ovation.
La Mama presents
by Maurial Spearim
Venue: La Mama Courthouse | 349 Drummond Street, Carlton VIC
Dates: September 21 – October 2, 2016
Tickets: $25 – $15
Bookings: www.lamama.com.au | 9347 614
Part of the 2016 Melbourne Fringe Festival