River tale runs deep

Headshot of Carly Laden
Carly LadenBroome Advertiser
Gilles Verhaegen and Sandra Umbagia Clarke perform the Old Lady.
Camera IconGilles Verhaegen and Sandra Umbagia Clarke perform the Old Lady. Credit: Jacques Delforge

A locally produced puppet play based on a traditional Nyikina story about the Fitzroy River has made a splash on the world stage when it ventured to Europe.

Song for the Mardoowarra, a trilingual work by Big MAMA Productions and Madjulla Inc., recently returned from full-house performances in France and Belgium as part of the highly acclaimed International Puppetry Festival.

The “fringe festival of puppetry” coincides with Festival Mondial des Theatres de Marionettes, hosting a wide range of performances by the world’s leading puppetry theatres and masters.

It was the second time Big MAMA Productions and Mad-julla Inc. had been invited to perform at the prestigious festival.

Songs for the Mardoowarra is based on the Nyikina traditional story that tells of the Dreamtime creation of the lower Mardoowarra (Fitzroy River) by Yoongoorookoo (the rainbow snake) and the first man, Woonyoomboo and pays homage to the way culture and country shape each other. The work encourages people to care for country and culture and to begin listening to nature again.

While the original production focused on the Fitzroy River and its creation, the play was given a different spin.

Ms Knox said she was “absolutely delighted” with the final result of the reworked play.

“While it was seen by Broome audiences in 2018, this version of the work performed in Europe was quite different as a result of stringent dramaturgical input by Florence Laloy, from Belgium, and Simon Hanukai, from Paris, and fantastic work by the cast,” she said.

“While it still told the creation story of the Fitzroy River, it also featured a conversation between the Mardoowarra and one less fortunate that has had human industrial development along its banks for hundreds of years.

“You cannot eat the fish from this river, nor swim in or drink the water, as you can from the flowing Mardoowarra.”

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