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Review: Djuki Mala at the Garden of Unearthly Desires

By Lia Cocks

Tonight’s sold out, highly anticipated, award winning show, Djuki Mala are quirky, high-voltage, compelling, cheeky and joyous. And that is just the crowd warmer!

Direct from Elcho Island, Djuki Mala (meaning bird mob) perform an incredible fusion of traditional Yolngu culture, contemporary dance and storytelling.

They achieved overnight success when Frank Djirrimbilpilwuy (Big Frank) uploaded a clip of the ‘Chooky’ boys dancing to Zorba the Greek back in 2012. Lionel, Big Frank’s son, created this special video as a thank you to the Greek nurse, Liliane, who cared for his sister while she was sick.

From the success of the video, which has had over 2.5 million views on YouTube, they have toured all over the world with their exuberant and effervescent interpretation of dance, song-lines and pop culture.

Beginning with a history of colonisation, we see an opening of the four dancers in traditional costumes and ochre, with Gara (spears) and Galpu (spear thrower) and are introduced to Margaret, Big Frank’s wife, via the multimedia projection on stage. She tells us about Big Frank, the boys, their history, their story.

It is a beautiful and striking background to what is happening on the stage. As Margaret finishes telling us about Liliane and their gratitude towards her, the music changes and all of a sudden, we are transported to Greece, where the audience cheer and stomp their feet in excitement, as the Chookies perform to Zorba the Greek.

What follows is a highly entertaining, comedic show juxtaposed with dance and skills drawn from ancestral culture. From Singing in the Rain (with a beautiful video of the boys dancing in mud puddles on the screen as they dance holding bright umbrellas on the stage) to a Bollywood inspired routine complete with gold turbans to the emotive, intimate dance dedicated to their selfless friend Darren, with the most spectacular soundscapes and marvellous lighting design.

We are told how dance, comedy and storytelling has been a massive part of their lives, especially during initiation for the boys, and of the places and people that inspire them.

We are taken on a hysterical and playful journey through the decades - 60s, 70s disco, 80s Michael Jackson and breakdancing to a 90s medley. What’s a 90s medley without some MC Hammer?

We are told that dance is in their blood. That is absolute truth. We are told they love dance. You can say that again. And they respect and pay tribute to their Indigenous culture while entertaining and charming the pants off the crowd.

Hands down, these boys deserved their standing ovation and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this thrilling dance theatre company.

Images Supplied by Lia Cocks

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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