Dance, Physical Theatre & Circus review: Djuki Mala

The Djuki Mala dancers have honed their craft and are now slicker and funnier than ever. Picture: Sean Young - SYC Studios
The Djuki Mala dancers have honed their craft and are now slicker and funnier than ever. Picture: Sean Young - SYC Studios
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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: It is not unusual for a show to go on a journey of transformation, but rarely is it quite as striking as this. If you watched the first ten minutes of Djuki Mala, then returned for the last ten minutes, you would be forgiven for thinking you’d attended two different shows.

Assembly George Square Theatre (Venue 8)

****

Which, given that we have been taken back thousands of years, then brought home to present day, is perhaps not surprising.

When we first meet the crew, they are dressed as their ancestors. Body paint, loincloths and spears, as worn by the Aboriginals of Elcho Island, in the remote outback of northern Australia. An atmospheric soundtrack is matched by movement deeply entrenched in tradition, with intermittent video clips from the dancers’ homeland taking us to the heart of Aboriginal culture.

The film also tells us how this project got started ten years ago, as a way to keep young men on the island fit. A key moment in 2007, when their founder uploaded a clip of the men dancing to Zorba the Greek, found them propelled into the spotlight with over a million views (it’s now close to three million).

A decade later, that routine is looking slicker than ever – and funnier. Having honed their craft further, and toured extensively, the Djuki Mala dancers know exactly how to entertain a crowd.

Fusing their traditional Yolngu style with music and movement from 20th and 21st century Britain and America, the men deliver tight, synchronised numbers to Motown, 1990s dancefloor classics and more. The umbrellas are out for Singing in the Rain, and the black suit and spangled glove is slipped into for Billie Jean. Yet, regardless of what clothes they put on, the audience is always wearing the same thing – a huge smile.

Until 28 August. Today 4:30pm.