See. This. Show
The experience of My Urrwai feels like a belly laugh, a sharp intake of breath and a big warm hug. It is a beautifully crafted irreverent story of one woman’s journey to her homeland and an incredibly enlivening night at the theatre.
From the moment you enter the Belvoir building with the Torres Strait Island flags hanging from the ceiling, Acknowledgment of Country chiseled into the concrete entrance and the Uluru Statement from The Heart from the 2017 National Constitutional Convention writ large in the foyer you are aware of the respect that has gone into presenting this work.
Taking a pivotal moment in her life: performer and creator Ghenoa Gela spins yarns linguistically, physically and emotionally into a fascinating story web. From a small town in Queensland, via Sydney to the Torres Strait Islands we are invited on the journey of a granddaughter, daughter, girlfriend, dancer, comedienne, and all round fierce and funny woman. Like all good theatre makers Ghenoa knows how to win our hearts with laughter before making us cry. There is honestly something for everybody in this work and by giving so much of herself in the specificity of the story the universal themes open up. From stand up comedy and breakdancing, to ancestral awareness reminiscent of Greek tragedy, it is a riveting tale that she weaves. This is actually a very positive story; yes there are sad and shocking elements but the beauty and richness is what you take away.
It has every element of the perfect play – music, comedy, dance, drama, a warm heart, a serious edge and the capacity to make you think deeply about the themes and issues raised. Ghenoa is an artist exploring her powers and has collaborated with the cream of the crop to edit My Urrwai from an epic story to a very neat 65 minutes.
Director Rachel Maza has done a deft job of allowing Ghenoa’s personality to shine without over-sentimentality or preaching. Design by Michael Hankin and lighting by Niklas Pajanti is stunning – evocative and overwhelming all in the right ways. Ania Reynolds’ sound design is also immaculate and achieves compression as well as oceanic openness in the small downstairs theatre. Special accolades should also go to Kate Champion who has a sharp eye for magically entwining the physical and the spoken languages together, using repetition and rhythm to leave space and air for us to viscerally understand the spiritual context.
Those lucky enough to see this limited season at Belvoir will not easily forget and it will surely tour far and wide. Of course there is so much more to Torres Strait than crystal blue waters, white sands and Eddie Mabo – take a trip in your own backyard with this performance. Ghenoa Gela will no doubt inspire future generations of performers to bring all of their identity, history, culture and humour to their storytelling and we will get to experience more work from talented home grown female talent.
In a festival rich in Australian stories this is definitely one not to be missed. It’s not so much a coming of age story of a young woman; it’s more of a coming of age story of all of us, and how far we have to go in our understanding of the first peoples. Ghenoa knows herself; it’s the rest of us as a nation that have the growing up to do.
Fiona Hallenan-Barker – Theatre Now & On The Town
19 Jan – 4 Feb 2018
PREVIEW: 19 JANUARY AT 6.30PM
21 JANUARY AT 3PM
23 & 24 JANUARY AT 7PM
25 JANUARY, 1 & 2 FEBRUARY AT 8.15PM
27 JANUARY AT 2.15PM AND 8.15PM
28 JANUARY & 4 FEBRUARY AT 5.15PM
30 & 31 JANUARY AT 7PM
3 FEBRUARY AT 2.15PM & 8.15PM
Venue: Belvoir Theatre -Downstairs
Theatre Company: A Belvoir and Performing Lines co-production presented in association with ILBIJERRI Theatre Company and Sydney Festival.
Duration: 55 Min
Take a deeply personal trip inside the life stories and culture of Torres Strait Islander dancer, sister, daughter, comic, teacher, TV star and air guitarist Ghenoa Gela.
In My Urrwai, Gela reflects on and celebrates her cultural and familial inheritance, and invites her audience to experience the interplay of the political, social and colonial expectations she dances with every day. It’s a revealing window into culture, and an unflinching comment on race relations in Australia.
Gela is a uniquely enthralling performer, a recipient of the 2016 Keir Choreographic Award and the winner of the Deadly Funny Melbourne International Comedy Festival Award. For her, laughter and deep reflection go hand in hand.
+ BOOKING FEE