Enchanting and joyful Tiwi stories


GOOSEBUMPS-raising, joyful and emotional, Wulamanayuwi and the Seven Pamanui mixes the enchanting tradition of European fairytales with the creation characters and stories of the Tiwi Islands.

Following critically acclaimed seasons at the Come Out Festival and the Darwin Festival (2011) the delightful Wulamanayuwi embarks on a comprehensive national tour, which includes a visit to Taree this week.

Using the language and rhyme, culture and stories of the Tiwi Islands, playwright and performer Jason De Santis brings to life this classic tale of good, evil and magical redemption.

Wulamanayuwi and the Seven Pamanui is a visually layered production using puppets, song, dance and projections to bring to life a modern adventure story, inspired by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Playright Jason De Santis explains his inspiration for the work.

"Growing up I had always loved hearing stories! Especially from my Nanna Martha and my Poppy Vince in Darwin.

"Then in the school holidays, I would go home to Tiwi Islands, and hear stories about "little men" like the Pamanui in this story and "mapurtiti" spirits, bush people and creation beings.

"In Melbourne in 2008, feeling homesick but incredibly inspired seeing other blackfellas creating, directing and acting in theatre, I couldn't help but think about the islands and suddenly all the stories I had been told came flooding back to me and all I wanted to do was write. I wanted to write a story that had elements of white and black culture, funny, sad, scary and exciting, like the stories I had been told!"

Five actors play a host of characters, operate puppets and perform live music.

The narrator Jarparra, the Moon Man, introduces us to Wulamanayuwi, the daughter of a Tiwi Warrior, who has run away from her evil stepmother.

Guided by a white cockatoo, Wulamanayuwi encounters creatures of magical significance - the seven Pamanui - who lead her on a joyful and surprising journey.

Director Eamon Flack is delighted to be involved in the project.

"I love to demands of the work itself - to identify all the streams of tradition going on in the work, from old fashioned panto to Tiwi tradition to the particular idioms of a kind of contemporary Indigenous stock of humorous characters and behaviours - a sort of semi-defined blackfella commedia dell'arte - I loved drawing all these traditions into a whole. The play is actually enormous, there's so so so much going on in there, but we've found a way of arranging all that chaos into this quite contained little living puppet show. "

Wulamanayuwi inhabits a visually stunning world of fantasy, full of spirit-beings, bush creatures and mischievous water spirits.

The Jilimara Arts and Craft Association in Milikapiti and the students of the Milikapiti Primary School of Melville Island made the puppets and set.

Packed with spirit and humour, Wulamanayuwi and the Seven Pamanui will delight audiences young and old. De Santis believes audiences will love the show. "It's mischievous, hilarious and magical. There's a lot in there for everybody. I think people will leave learning a lot about Tiwi culture but also, about their own culture as well."

Director Eamon Flack agrees, "It's a pretty charming and fun and surprising little show that's at its best when there's a mix of adults and kids in the house. The show is a sort of multi-function invitation to a whole variety of humours and people and ages and backgrounds to join in on our silly little adventure. Plus it's a love story - that's always a delight."

The cast includes Dalara Williams, Kamahi King, Natasha Wanganeen, Jason De Santis and Jaxon De Santis.

Toured by Performing Lines for Blak Lines, with the support of the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

Wulamanayuwi and the Seven Pamanui is on at the Manning Entertainment Centre Friday (March 28) at 11am and Saturday (March 29) at 6pm.

The play is suitable for children aged seven and up, as well as adults.

Tickets are available at the Manning Entertainment Centre webpage, or at Movies, Games and More in Victoria Street, Taree.

The cast is also leading creative workshops for young people at the Manning Regional Art Gallery and Thursday (March 27) afternoon met with Aboriginal elders from Taree, Forster and Gloucester for afternoon tea.