Wudjang: Not the Past @ Festival Theatre, Adelaide 15/3/2022

Wudjang: Not the Past is a monumental Bangarra Dance Theatre production that is different to what they usually perform as this is more operatic in nature. This epic shows the First Nations experience on stage and has moving and authentic storytelling through singing, dancing and theatre and is close to what happens in ceremony.

I saw the excellent documentary about Bangarra and it really whetted my appetite to see more of their productions. Wudjang is a First Nations word for mother and in this show, a Yugambeh man finds ancestral bones of Wudjang while excavating a dam and the Wudjang spirit wishes to be reburied the proper way. She dances teaches and sings of the past to guide the next generation.

The show was directed by Stephen Page (The Artistic Director of Bangarra since 1991) and co-written by him and Alana Valentine, Alana had also co-written the excellent “Watershed: The Death of Dr Duncan” that was performed earlier in the festival.

There were five singing actors, two musicians and seventeen dancers that make up the cast. The singing was wonderful and a special mention must go to Jess Hitchcock who played Nanahing and had a very impressive voice. Jess has sung with Kate Miller-Heidke and Paul Kelly over the last couple of years. The soundtrack and songs were uplifting and beautiful and I can see it being released on CD one day.

The set was spectacular which included a giant rock and a huge circular industrial mining element on stage which was the metaphor for western colonisation. The story did not pull any punches and showed in detail the massacres that happened at that time. At the end of this magical show, the performers received a standing ovation that was genuine and thoroughly well-earned.

Adelaide Festival Review By Richard De Pizzol

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