Review: Bukal, JUTE Theatre

Douglas Robins

Bukal is a story of humble beginnings, family, tradition and culture. Bukal is a story of an amazing woman.
Review: Bukal, JUTE Theatre

Bukal by Andrea James with Henrietta Marrie, photo via JUTE Theatre.

A JUTE Theatre Production, Bukal is a story of a woman: Henrietta Marrie (nee Fourmile) who, although diminutive in stature, was born with a boundless inner spirit and an unsurpassed strength of character. It's made evident to the viewer early in this play that Henrietta would need to muster all her resolve to navigate the tumultuous and ever changing cultural landscape of 1970s Australia and beyond, if there was to be any chance of enacting the changes to Indigenous perceptions she dearly craved.

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Entering the theatre, the stage’s circular setup automatically draws the viewers' eye to centre stage. This subtle staging technique conceived by the production team, engrossed the audience wholeheartedly. Naturalistic elements such as vine leaves, branches and soil, grounded the show firmly as an Indigenous theatre piece. The use of three portable pillars and wooden boxes gave each scene a unique layout, creating dramatic points of difference.

All three actresses in Bukal gave a performance to savour. Maurial Spearim, Alexis West and Taeg Twist, all excel in their respective incarnations of Bukal, aka Henrietta. Maurial Spearim holds her own as the central form of Bukal. Spearim’s genuine nature and facial expressions were sustained for the entire hour and immersed the audience even further into this emotional journey.

Alexis West, the tough side of Henrietta, was tasked with also playing several male characters. The first, more pivotal of these was Bukal’s grandfather ‘Ye-i-nie’, who had all the Traditional knowledge and presided over purifying smoking ceremonies throughout the narrative. West also plays the bumbling anthropologist ‘Tall Man’ Tindale, a researcher, who effectively stole precious heirlooms from Aboriginal communities.

The shy, cautious side of Henrietta’s personality was played by Taeg Twist. She also played Bukal’s mother, and also had the role of the comedic side characters. The timing of the one-liners she delivered were on song throughout and added another layer to this piece.

Cultural consultant, Carl Fourmile, who is in fact Henrietta’s eldest son, had the job of keeping the intended feel for the piece, and it kept a rhythm that is uniquely Indigenous. The very first part is an actual Welcome to Country dance and chant, authentic to the Yarrabah area. This attention to detail is refreshing – an expectation JUTE Theatre prides itself on.

Multiple sources of lighting from ceiling, floor and the wings enveloped the performance space – with illumination heightening the visceral emotions evoked in each scene. The final glow of lighting effects used to close the play were spectacular and poignantly rounded off the show.

Bukal is a story of humble beginnings. Bukal is a story of family, tradition and culture. Bukal is a story of an amazing woman.

Rating: 4 ½ stars ★★★★☆

Bukal 
by Andrea James with Henrietta Marrie
Featuring: Maurial Spearim, Alexis West, Taeg Twist
A JUTE Theatre Company Production in association with CQUniversity and presented during CIAF 2018

6th – 14th July 
JUTE Theatre, Cairns 

 
What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Douglas Robins 30, from Far North Queensland has had a passion for the arts his whole life: a professional theatre maker with both an acting and writing background. This experience gives him a complete appreciation of all facets that make a successful stage production so now he’s trying his hand at reviews.