It's a superbly designed show, built around a playful set (backed by a large projection screen), and the costumes are colourful and flamboyant.
—Joff Schmidt, CBC Theatre Reviewer
Coming to Manitoba Theatre for Young People from Australia through a cultural exchange program, Buru is a performance piece with great intentions - it aims to help preserve the culture of Australia's indigenous Yawuru people by telling their stories through the performances of some very talented young people. These noble intentions are, by and large, enough to smooth over some of the show's rough edges, and make for a successful piece of theatre.
Buru, the work of Australian theatre company Marrugekku, is based on both contemporary stories and the traditional stories of the Yawuru people of north Western Australia - the 45-minute show, performed in six segments, is inspired by the six Yawuru seasons.
Stilt walker performs in "Buru" at MTYP (Rod Hartvigsen)
(conceived and co-directed by Dalisa Pigram, who also performs in the show along with a cast of 11 young performers, most of whom are in their teens) uses a range of performance styles to accomplish this - there's circus performing (notably a lot of impressive stilt-work), dance, some rap, and singing (backed by two live musicians who perform onstage). The range of styles give the cast plenty of opportunity to show off their range of skills, but also has the effect of often making Buru
feel somewhat disjointed, and it may be particularly confusing at points for younger theatre-goers (and I'll admit to not always being entirely sure where Buru
was going myself).
The range of talent in the young cast is impressive, though - they're particularly skilled stilt-walkers (often performing elegant dance-like steps on stilts), and there are some fine rappers in the bunch (although rap vocals, along with any spoken lines, were unfortunately drowned out by too-loud sound effects and music on opening night). As the show's conceptual force, Dalisa Pigram might be wise to let her young performers do more of the show on their own - while her dance numbers were graceful, she's not a confident narrator for the show, and her opening preamble to the show was largely unnecessary.
And while some of the show's scenes run too long, young audiences will likely remain engaged by the energy of the cast, and by the visual spectacle Buru
offers - it's a superbly designed show, built around a playful set (backed by a large projection screen), and the costumes are colourful and flamboyant.
In the end, Buru
does feel a bit more like a recital by some very skilled young performers than like the polished, professional theatre MTYP usually offers. But the talent of those performers, and the opportunity to experience theatre from a perspective we rarely get to see, are enough to recommend Buru. Joff Schmidt, CBC Theatre Reviewer