A cathartic reckoning with colonial grief

23 January 2023

WHITESNAKE3000 is a brave and complex new dance theatre work to heal the fractures of mixed race experiences, writes Patrick Gunasekera.

WHITESNAKE3000, Renegade Productions 
The Blue Room Theatre, 20 January 2023

Zendra Giraudo’s dance theatre work WHITESNAKE3000 is a raw and redemptive transformation of the shame endured by many who grow up navigating multiple cultures.

Developed with director Joe Paradise Lui and dramaturgs Emma Fishwick and Andrew Sutherland, the work unpacks the Legend of the White Snake – a folktale originating in the Tang Dynasty but retold in different ways over time.

Drawing from scarce access to their own cultural knowledge, Giraudo splinters White Snake’s epic storylines by purging the scars of growing up queer and biracial in Buddhist-Australian communities.

Connections are drawn between White Snake and Giraudo’s stories; loved ones disapprove of their true form, their divergence is weaponised against them and yet they persist. These connections resist patriarchal interpretations of White Snake as an allegory against fem agency.

The work is accompanied by an exhilarating soundtrack of harsh noise, Chinese and Western classical music, and some soulful Mitski. Powerpoint style projections add humour, with collages of the creative team and various interpretations of the folktale’s characters.

Though a trademark of Renegade Productions, some amicable references to the show’s team initially seemed cliquey. But with Giraudo in control of the folktale’s conflicting perspectives, WHITESNAKE3000’s daring message about the reclamation of a multi-faceted identity brilliantly accumulates.

Seemingly contradictory aspects of Giraudo’s life are reconstructed in new, chosen contexts. Buddhist rituals, Lui’s finger guns, and even memorable images from Fishwick’s 2021 work Slow Burn, Together are introduced. The resulting mishmash of ideas transforms the stage into a site where Giraudo successfully releases the complex baggage carried in her intersecting identities.

Some of Giraudo’s painful experiences are spoken directly to the audience. Whilst a useful diversion from movement-based scenes, I felt this wasn’t the most emotionally safe dramaturgy for the performer. But ultimately every creative risk amplifies the power of the work as Giraudo takes control of their vulnerable reckonings.

Explaining the show’s dances, discarding performance mode, and effortlessly switching between conflicting dance languages, Giraudo decisively spirals into a riveting unfixed choreography that reclaims her perpetual multiplicity.

As a queer biracial Sri Lankan-Australian with Buddhist ancestry, I found WHITESNAKE3000 instilled freedom to reclaim my own disrupted identities.

Children of global catastrophes, colonised and migrant artists have a unique responsibility to present self-determined versions of ourselves. It’s never straightforward – but WHITESNAKE3000 gives me hope that perhaps reclaiming our mess is the start of transforming the traumatic legacies that shape us.

Giraudo’s voice pulses with the formidable strength of newer generations – forming our own cultural values out of the struggles, sacrifices and failures of our predecessors.

Rigorously depicting our turmoil, WHITESNAKE3000 is a significant contribution to modern arts canons of mixed race cultural contexts. It offers a complex, valuable inquiry into cultural grief from a personal lens, and serves a vital role for post-globalisation youth to heal our fractured hearts.

WHITESNAKE3000 continues at The Blue Room Theatre until 28 January 2023

Pictured top: Zendra Giraudo in ‘WHITESNAKE3000’. Photo: Sophie Minissale

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Author —
Patrick Gunasekera

Patrick Gunasekera (he/him) is an emerging writer, performer and dramatist based in Whadjuk Noongar boodjar. After reading a poorly-written review of a show by disabled artists, he went into arts journalism to improve criticism and media representation of marginalised cultural work. He really loves monkey bars, but not being judged for playing on them.

Past Articles

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