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Reviews/Theatre

A rich and hearty recipe for success

30 April 2021

Telling a cracking good story, the debut season of Zac James’s Kangaroo Stew has all the right ingredients, says Michelle White.

Kangaroo Stew, Desert Wirla ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 28 April 2021 ·

The premiere season of Kangaroo Stew, a new play by Martu, Yamatji and Murri playwright Zac James, delivers all the ingredients for a great night at the theatre.

It’s a strong script with an excellent cast (including James in the lead role), tight direction by Bruce Denny, clever use of staging and lighting in the small Blue Room Theatre, but most of all, it’s a cracking good story.

And a timely one too.

David is a big shot mining industry worker who is returning to his home country to see his family after ten years in the city. His visit coincides with the anniversary of his dad’s death, however his real motivation is more mercenary. Is David a saviour or a sell-out?

Zac James covers a lot important topics in this 60 minute play; connection to land and culture, family feuding, alcoholism, code-switching, poverty, assimilation, death and spirituality. Woven in amongst all of this is a very real story thread facing many Aboriginal families and communities today – protecting lore and country, versus the promise of mining money to secure a better economic future.

This season of Kangaroo Stew is produced by new company Desert Wirla, in partnership with The Blue Room Theatre and Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company. In James’s traditional language, Wirla means heart and it’s clear he has put a lot of his own heart into this work.

While all the actors are outstanding – Maitland Schnaars as the father, Micah Kickett as the brother and Caitlyn Jane Hampson as the non-Aboriginal girlfriend – it’s Rayma Morrison’s turn as the feisty, cheeky but deeply tormented family matriarch that steals the laughs and at times the show. It’s interesting to note that Morrison only made her theatre acting debut three years ago.

While I personally loved the prolific use of traditional language and Aboriginal English in this production, at times I did wonder how much of the script would go over the heads of non-Aboriginal audiences.

But, like a good, hearty feed of kangaroo stew, when the final lights went down, this production left me feeling completely satisfied.

It took James 11 years to write and bring Kangaroo Stew to the stage, so it’s such a shame it had its world premiere amidst Perth’s recent Covid restrictions, reducing audience numbers to just 20 seats. While there was palpable gratitude that the show could go on, this sold out season truly deserves a full house every night.

If more seats are released, grab a ticket and treat yourself to some Kangaroo Stew.

Kangaroo Stew continues at The Blue Room Theatre until 8 May 2021.

Pictured top is ‘Kangaroo Stew’ director Bruce Denny. Photo: Duncan Wright

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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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