It’s the school holidays in Brisbane, the weather is perfect, and there is a very small window of time to catch Waru – journey of the small turtle, Bangarra Dance Theatre’s first dedicated work for children ages 3-8 years old.

Directed by Bangarra’s former artistic director Stephen Page, Waru won the Sydney Theatre Award for Best Production for Children in 2023 and has been performed over 80 times across two seasons. Waru is a contemporary saltwater Lagaw Kazil (Island Children) story inspired by the totemic system of the green turtle.

Set under the star-illuminated skies of the Torres Strait, local grandmother Aku Malu, played by Elma Kris, wakes up in her hut. Through her narration, she shares the story of her beloved turtles, who come to lay eggs in the sand nearby every year. Malu patiently waits for two full moons for the eggs to hatch and does her best to fend off predators, namely cheeky lizards.

Ebbing and flowing at a slow, gentle pace, the story follows the hatching, birth, first year at sea and eventual return of Migi the turtle. Storyteller Elma Kris was completely at home on the stage and expertly held the young audience’s attention. The performance I attended was full and the young audience was highly enthusiastic and didn’t need much encouragement to interact when invited.

The set and costumes by Jacob Nash were transportive, and together with lighting and projections by Matt Cox evoked an island home complete with twinkling lights, real sand and coconut husks which smoked as a ‘fire’ was almost started. Highlights included the traditional music and dance sequence performed by Elma Kris and cast mate Aba Bero.

Running for a child-friendly 45 minutes, there are displays and craft activities in the foyer prior to the show which are sure to enhance the overall experience.

Waru is an interactive and immersive introduction to Torres Strait Islander culture and serves as a gentle reminder of our responsibility to care for our lands and waterways.

Waru is on at the Playhouse, QPAC from 26th – 29th June.


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Photo credits: Daniel Boud