Jurrungu Ngan-ga [Straight Talk] Review

ATYP’s reviewing program was created to give young people a platform to voice their opinions and experiences while developing skills in critical reflection. The views expressed are those of the writer and do not reflect the views of ATYP or its staff.


Set against panels of metal sheets, the show opens with one performer (Emmanuel James Brown) gliding onto stage. His movements are both fluid and sharp, with a great clarity in gestures and gaze which, underscored by Sam Serruys’ composition, portrays an individual who is simultaneously free in nature and evading an unseen predator.

Jurrungu Ngan-ga [Straight Talk] 2023. Photo by Prudence Upton ©
As someone who is not from a dance background, a recurring fear and frustration I experience when watching dance and movement-based works is not understanding the theme of the show without reading the program, or being overwhelmed by multiple elements simultaneously happening onstage and not having enough clues to read my own interpretation into the piece. However, Marrugeku’s Jurrungu Ngan-ga [Straight Talk] quelled those fears from the beginning. This is a show that is clear on its intention and where in the wider societal conversations it wants to speak to.

Jurrungu Ngan-ga [Straight Talk] is an exploration and reflection on Australia’s historical and current handling of incarceration, detention, refugees, and those viewed on the outskirts of a society prioritising being a ‘true blue’ Australian. Choreographer Dalisa Pigram and Director Rachael Swain’s artistic visions are clearly communicated to the audience, and the show, rather than offering answers, is a call to action through awareness.

The performers are all amazing and alive with character. Each with their individual quality of movement, the show celebrates cohesion and unity through bodies and voices moving together in their own way, rather than emphasising uniformity. Pigram and Swain’s layering of elements and movements is masterful and, supported by Damien Cooper’s lighting design, multiple phrases of movements and design elements being manipulated at the same time never felt confusing or like you were going to miss out on something if you look at the wrong performer. Rather, I felt guided through the busier moments.

Some of the transitions between scenes felt a bit jarring at times, and occasionally the text may have tiptoed over-explaining the physicality of the previous scene, but the payoff was always worth it and it never felt like the show lulled at any point.

Jurrungu Ngan-ga [Straight Talk] 2023. Photo by Prudence Upton ©
A highlight for me was Abdul-Rahman Abdullah’s set design, which served as an institutional-like structure that encased and surveilled the performers and allowed space for complete expressions of aggression, grief, frustration, and celebration. The different layers and uses of the set made my eyes very happy and were like a gentle massage on the brain.

Whether you have or haven’t been to a dance or theatre show before, Jurrungu Ngan-ga [Straight Talk] will invite you into the different stories they are portraying and guide you through the conversations they’re speaking into – in a very cool and high-energy way.


Laura Liu, 26 [she/her]

Jurrungu Ngan-ga [Straight Talk] plays at Black Swan State Theatre Company WA until the 23rd of September. See details here.