Monday, October 2, 2017


Choreographed by Dalisa Pigram and Koen Augustijnen
Directed by Koen Augustijnen - Performed by Dalisa Pigram
Set Design and video art by Vernon Ah Kee – Composed by Sam Serruya
Costume design by Stephen Curtis – Lighting design by Matthew Marshall
Presented by Marrugeku and the Canberra Theatre Centre
The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre, 30th September 2017 

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

A remark by one of her grandfathers, Senator Pat Dodson, about the guwayi seabird that calls a warning when the tide is turning, inspired indigenous performer, Dalisa Pigram to spend three years in collaboration with Belgian Choreographer, Koen Augistijnen, creating “Gudirr Gudirr”.

Dalisa Pigram performing 'Gudirr Gudirr" 

Confronting questions of her own indigenous identity, Pigram focusses on major issues facing her own family and community in Broome to sound her own warnings about the effects of massive industrialisation on traditional lands. The loss of language, youth suicide, and the gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous well-being are all addressed in this compelling, beautifully realised and continually involving dance work.

Pigram makes imaginative use of her well-honed skills as an aerialist, dancer, gymnast, and Malay martial arts exponent, as well as animal movement and vocalisation to engage and fascinate as she skipped and prowled birdlike around Vernon Ah Kee’s inspired, minimalist setting. 

Throughout, she addressed the audience directly in an intriguing combination of English and her own native Yawuru language, providing a particular highlight with a hilarious rant in pidgin, which featured the word “fucken”, repeated over and over, in a powerful demonstration of the disarming effectiveness of humour to express the frustration of perceived powerlessness.

Evocative images of Pigram’s father and family fishing expeditions, key-words and messages were projected on to the corrugated iron backdrop, to provide context. Among them an extraordinary extract of comments by a West Australian Administrator, A.O. Neville.

Dalisa Pigram performing "Gudirr Gudirr"

From time to time she wrapped herself in a fishing net hanging on one side of the stage, transforming it into a nest in which to shelter, a means to allow her to swoop and fly out over the audience, and a ladder on which to climb higher to meet challenges.

A strikingly inventive work, with an atmospheric soundtrack that includes songs sung by family member Stephen Pigram, “Gudirr Gudirr”, like the guwayi bird which inspired it,  disarmingly delivers important warnings amidst its entertaining and meticulously performed framework. Warnings which obviously resonated with the enthusiastic audience which greeted its only Canberra performance.

This review also appears in Australian Arts Review.