Stradbroke Dreamtime

Out of the Box

Stradbroke Dreamtime

QPAC Studio 2


12th – 16th June

Reviewed by Michelle Bull


Actors: “Who here has been to Stradbroke Island?”

Audience: “me!”

Actors: “ What did you see when you were there?”

Audience: “Sand!” “Shells!” “Water!” “Crabs!” ”Monkeys!”


The scope of a child’s imagination is something that I am inherently jealous and in awe of. The limitless possibilities and their ability to invest into a story unconditionally is something truly wonderful. Sitting alongside these young adventurous minds in an audience on Wednesday I found encouraged me to also reconnect with my imagination and allow myself to be taken on a journey, into Stradbroke Dreamtime.

Directed by Sue Rider, and presented by QPAC and Queensland Theatre Company as part of the Out of the box Festival 2012, Stradbroke Dreamtime is a collection of stories adapted from a book by poet, artist and author Oodgeroo (Aunty Kath Walker). It tells the stories of her childhood growing up as a young Aboriginal girl on Stradbroke Island. Told through traditional storytelling, physical theatre, dance and song, each story takes the audience on a journey through the beauty of the Island, everyday life, Aboriginal culture and Dreamtime stories. Staged in the round, with lots of opportunity for interaction with the audience, the biggest strength of this production was the way in which it actively engaged it’s young audience for the duration, allowing them to be swept up in the wonder of the world being created.

The three performers were equally responsive and dedicated to their roles, encouraging the young audiences involvement in the telling of the stories through interactive soundscape activities (making the sound of water, trees, frogs and kookaburras) and questioning to make personal connections to place and the characters in the story. This was an affective way to both engage and hold their attention allowing them to invest into the stories of life on the Island.

The performers’ honest approach to the delivery of text and physicality of their roles aided their ability to recreate the scene using the basic yet colourful set (Bill Haycock). Simple props added a sense of culture and visuals to the performance, without detracting from the essence of the story. A painted ‘dingy’ sat central to the action, drawing ‘oohs and ahhs’ from its audience as its underside (painted in elaborate Aboriginal design) was revealed. Likewise, a painted sheet became water; a dilly bag, a baby’s swaddling and a schoolroom cane, while more fabric became charred fire sticks, Dreamtime stories and paper bark.

The choreography (Gail Mabo) of this production also served to create a seamless energy that allowed for a wonderful flow through and between stories. The young audience particularly enjoyed the performers recreation of animals like the Kangaroo, Reptiles and Chickens that also acted to showcase the performers diverse abilities and cultural understanding, along with a few giggles from the audience.

The production did not shy away from often confronting truths and themes such as Oodgeroo’s punishment for being left handed, the meagre food rations provided by the ‘white people’ and the unbending rules regarding Aboriginal law of “killing for food”. This gave the production just enough depth to balance its storytelling nature with ideas to provoke thought and questions, which I could almost see formulating in the young audiences minds during these moments. Another effective tool was the use of a theme song, Stradbroke Home to bookend the production. All three performers sang simply and honestly and it was a nice moment to connect with the sentiment at the core of the show.

This is a great show to introduce young audiences to Aboriginal culture and history. Accessible, engaging and entertaining, this adaptation of Oodgeroo’s Stradbroke Dreamtime is one that will encourage an awareness and appreciation of the stories and culture that have shaped our nation.

Final 2 shows today at 10am and 12:30pm. Book online.

Illustration by Bronwyn Bancroft


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