Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Theatre

Sparks fly over unfinished business

12 February 2021

Watch out for Kalyakoorl Collective, says Michelle White, as she feels the heat in FIRE, its debut work.

FIRE, Kalyakoorl Collective ·
Girls’ School, 11 February, 2021 ·

FIRE is a poignant, heartfelt exploration of the complexities of sisterhood, the challenges of modern life and, most importantly, how connection to culture is the greatest power of all.

This debut production by new First Nations theatre ensemble Kalyakoorl Collective is a two-hander performed by Ebony McGuire – who also wrote it – and Nadia Martich. The strained relationship between sisters Holly (played by Martich) and the younger Melissa (McGuire) plays out in a tiny kitchen set, in an equally tiny theatre in Fringe World’s Girls’ School. The smallness of the venue, combined with the gentle but evocative lighting and sound design, adds to the delightful intimacy of this personal production.

Holly and Melissa, now adults, are reunited under the same roof for the first time since their carer and much-loved Nan passed away. They are brought together by a crisis: Holly is seeking refuge with her sister after a life-altering heartbreak and betrayal. It’s a fiery reunion, and one that forces the sisters to face unfinished business.

The themes in FIRE are universal and relatable for anyone with a sibling, but what sets this production apart is how seamlessly Noongar culture is woven into its fabric. Between each scene, the sisters recite an ode to the djiti djiti (willy wagtail), their soft Noongar prose complemented by equally elegant choreography.

One of the play’s strengths is the way McGuire evokes empathy, sharing confronting experiences, such as grief and Aboriginal intergenerational trauma, without being overly emotive or preaching.

It’s a pure delight to watch the two performers code-switch between modern Australia and the Nyitting (Dreamtime) and a gentle reminder that this is not just a story about human relationships, it’s also about recognising our First Nations culture as the longest continuous living culture on Earth.

My only regret is that I didn’t see this play earlier, so I could have urged you all to see it before the season ends – FIRE completes its Fringe run very soon, so get tickets if you can. If not, make sure you remember the Kalyakoorl Collective – it means “forever” in Noongar.

UPDATE: FIRE has been further developed ready for a season at the Blue Room Theatre 22 June – 10 July 2021.

FIRE, in the Briefing Room of the Girls’ School, runs until Sunday, 14 February, 2021.

Read Seesaw’s Fringe Sessions Q&A with Ebony McGuire.

Pictured top, left to right, are Nadia Martich and Ebony McGuire in ‘Fire’. Photo supplied

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Author —
Michelle White

Michelle White is a Yamatji storyteller with more than 30 years writing and producing for televison, radio, print and online. She has extensive experience working in the arts and currently serves as Partnerships and Platforming Manager for Community Arts Network. Favourite part of the playground? The flying fox or wherever the food is!

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