Waru journey of the small turtle

‘Waru – journey of the small turtle’ // QPAC and Bangarra Dance Theatre

Collaborative review with Xavier, 11

During the school holidays I attended ‘Waru – journey of the small turtle’, a children dance theatre show created by Stephen Page, together with Hunter Page-Lochard and Bangarra alumni Dancers and Choreographers Sani Townson and Elma Kris.

The show was an impressive experience that I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy as an 11-year-old, but it turned out to be quite engaging! The story of Migi, the green turtle returning to her birthplace under the Torres Strait stars, told by grandma Aka Malu, was charming, and would be captivating for the very young audience (3-8) it was created for.

Entering the expansive Playhouse theatre at QPAC, Malteses box in hand, I was immediately struck by the detailed stage set—a beach hut, sand dune, and lighting that created a stunning starry night sky backdrop. It felt like stepping into another world. 

The storyteller / grandma Aka Malu (Elma Kris), was both humorous and interactive (I suspect the moment she karate-kicks away a lizard would have been a highlight for many in the audience). A calm, confident and commanding presence on stage, she had us all participating in traditional dance moves and fun actions to ‘help’ along the turtle, which reminded me of children’s shows like Dora the Explorer. The audience involvement added to the enjoyment of the performance – at one point the whole theatre was screaming trying to alert an improbably unaware Aka Malu about a lizard on stage. To me this was the funniest and perhaps the most successful moment of the show.

I appreciated how the show seamlessly integrated traditional Torres Strait Islander culture with really nice storytelling. The music (Helen Anu, Leonora Adidi and Peggy Misi) and calm island atmosphere were beautifully presented, and the traditional dances were interspersed throughout the story in a way that felt natural and not overwhelming.

For younger children, Waru would be an exceptionally good introduction to theatre. It was genuinely artistically rich, yet simple and accessible, with a dynamic pace and visuals that kept everyone engaged. The shorter duration – 45 minutes – was also perfect for younger attention spans. In fact there were many young children around us who became uncontrollably wriggly towards the end.

Before the show, there were educational activities like craft stations and posters about environmental care, which added to the experience and reinforced the play’s themes. 

Overall, Waru was a high-quality production that combined entertainment with cultural education in a way that was visually stunning and enjoyable for all ages. It’s a great way for kids to learn about Torres Strait Islander culture through theatre.

‘Waru – journey of the small turtle’ ran from 26-29 June at the Playhouse at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC).

Photo by Daniel Boud

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