Bindjareb Pinjarra is about an incident which occurred in October 1834 between Nyoongars (Aboriginals) and Mounted Police at a place called Pinjarra, 90 kms south of Perth, Western Australia. One side of the story calls it a battle, but history and the truth says otherwise.
Set to an impressive canvas backdrop of a fiery red landscape watched by the blistering sun, this play is as much about history as it is about hope. The strong cast of five consisting of Kelton Pell, Isaac Drandic, Franklin Nannup, Sam Longley, and Craig Williams all deliver excellent performances as they switch between 1834 and current day characters including an amusing railway ticket machine and characters in a drone-like Centrelink Office.
The build up to the massacre encompasses issues such as the gap between white and indigenous Australians including stereotypes and discriminating attitudes. For the majority of the performance, it tackles these key issues in a refreshingly funny way as if to send up the very ignorance that exists in this country about our first people. Interactive breaks in the performance are an opportunity to learn more within a minute about our rich Aboriginal culture than most of us may have learned through our education system (or lack thereof).
It is not though, a long comedy sketch that plays on the divide between white and indigenous Australians, but rather a beautifully constructed story of injustice and of a hope of more understanding between the two peoples.
The depiction of the massacre at Pinjarra was a turning point in the play that left everyone speechless for its sheer power and poignancy. To think that this actually occurred is a travesty that no apology could ever attempt to appease. It was one of the most moving pieces of theatre in its simplicity and truth.
The Nyoongar (and other) cast members graciously took time at the end of the performance to field questions about the event and the performance. The genuine feeling of mutual respect and understanding between cast and audience was a testament to the fact that, through trying to educate each other and share our history, we can, as the production notes state, ‘work together towards a better future’.
If this can be achieved through the medium of performance art, then we should look forward to seeing more quality productions such as this to help bring us closer together.
Reviewed by Darren Hassan
Venue: Dunstan Playhouse Season: 22, 25-28 May
Duration: 60 minutes
Bookings: Book at BASS