What's On

Jurrungu Ngan-ga [Straight Talk]


Buy Tickets

Presented by Arts House and Marrugeku

Wednesday 18 – Sunday 22 August, 2021

Wed – Fri, 7.30pm
Sat, 2pm & 7.30pm
Sun, 5pm

85 mins

All tickets

Arts House
North Melbourne Town Hall
521 Queensberry St
North Melbourne

Suitable for ages 16+, contains coarse language, adult themes and partial nudity. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the production contains names of people who have died.


disability access symbol wheelchair black

Wheelchair accessible.

Marrugeku confronts Australia’s fixation with incarceration in a visceral, turbo-charged new dance work.

White Australia was founded of a dream of imprisonment, and that mission has evolved into a fixation with locking people away. Jurrungu Ngan-ga — literally ‘Straight Talk’— exposes the deep-seated fears that create Australia’s ‘prison of the mind’ and bar our way forward to truth and justice.

This fearless feat of the imagination examines the common thread that connects outrageous levels of Indigenous incarceration to the indefinite detaining of asylum seekers.

Through movement, spoken word, installation and a powerful musical soundscape, Jurrungu Ngan-ga’s large cast draws on intersecting yet distinct cultural and community-informed experiences – Indigenous, immigrant, people seeking asylum, transgender and settler – to ask: who’s really in prison here?


Three years in development in Marrugeku’s twin homes of Broome and Sydney, this mesmerising epic of dance theatre is inspired by perspectives on incarceration shared by Yawuru leader Patrick Dodson, Kurdish-Iranian writer and former Manus Island detainee Behrouz Boochani and philosopher Omid Tofighian. Featuring a dazzling design by Abdul-Rahman Abdullah and a sprawling ensemble cast, this is performance of a rare scale, exploring questions of vital urgency.

Marrugeku cements its place as one of Australia’s most exciting dance companies.
– Alison Croggon, Witness, on Marrugeku’s Le Dernier Apple/The Last Cry

Their dance is not just comment but is the very negotiation and substance of the drama.
– Manheim Morning


About Marrugeku

Marrugeku is an unparalleled presence in Australia today, dedicated to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians working together to develop new dance languages that are restless, transformative and unwavering. Marrugeku is led by co-artistic directors: choreographer/dancer Dalisa Pigram and director/dramaturg Rachael Swain. Working together for 27 years, they co-conceive and facilitate Marrugeku’s productions and research laboratories, introducing audiences to the unique and potent structures of Indigenous knowledge systems and the compelling experience of intercultural performance. Marrugeku’s performers come from diverse backgrounds and disciplines, collaborating to co-create each production. Marrugeku’s patron is Yawuru law man and national reconciliation advocate Patrick Dodson.

Artist Statement

In July 2016 we sat down with Yawuru leader Patrick Dodson to discuss jurrungu ngan-ga, a Yawuru kinship concept that enables certain relatives to communicate ‘straight’ or directly with one another. Many years earlier Patrick had been one of six commissioners and the only non-lawyer who sat on the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. He made the critical link between the rampant imprisonment of Indigenous Australians, who remain proportionally some of the most incarcerated peoples in the world, and the locking up of refugees in offshore and onshore detention centres. ‘This linked scenario stems from our history as a penal colony’, he suggested: ‘We are a nation of jailers; we lock up that which we fear. Why does it take five big men to detain one little boy? There are no devils left in hell – they are all up here. Cruelty is a heinous thing’. Jurrungu Ngan-ga brings attention to Australia’s creation of dehumanizing spaces without due process of law and the necessary social support and respect. The show reveals how this unique dialogue between Indigenous, settler and refugee perspectives can address the burning issues of our times. The making of Jurrungu Ngan-ga has required a constant engagement with sadness, anger, resilience and joy. We are honoured to work with this amazing team of collaborators who have brought their own lived experience, bodies, politics, spirit and passion to the making of the show. – Dalisa Pigram and Rachael Swain

Artist Credits

Jurrungu Ngan-ga is collaboratively created by:

Concept: Dalisa Pigram and Rachael Swain with Patrick Dodson
Choreography: Dalisa Pigram with the performers
Direction: Rachael Swain
Dramaturgy: Hildegard de Vuyst
Cultural Dramaturgy: Behrouz Boochani, Patrick Dodson, Omid Tofighian
Music: Sam Serruys, Paul Charlier and Rhyan Clapham
Sound Design: Sam Serruys and Paul Charlier
Scenic Design: Abdul-Rahman Abdullah
Costume Design: Andrew Treloar
Lighting Design: Damien Cooper
Co-devising Performers: Czack (Ses) Bero, Emmanuel James Brown, Chandler Connell, Luke Currie-Richardson, Issa el Assaad, Zachery Lopez, Bhenji Ra, Feras Shaheen and Miranda Wheen

Additional music:
Far from Home
Farhad Bandesh and Anna Liebzeit (composition)
Farhad Bandesh (recorded vocals sung in Kurdish)

The Ha Dub Rewerk’d
MikeQ (composer and performer)

Jalangurru Wiyi
Emmanuel James Brown (live vocals sung in Bunuba)

Additional instrumental recordings
Natasha Rumiz – Viola

Additional Choreography Krump Army: Stacy Peke aka Red Ladybrui5er


Production Manager & Lighting Operator: Aiden Brennan
Audio Technician: Raine Paul
Company Manager: Denise Wilson

Co-Artistic Directors: Dalisa Pigram and Rachael Swain
General Manager: Robina Burton
Strategy and Sales: Justin Macdonnell

Supported by – Co-commissioned by Carriageworks and the City of Melbourne through Arts House. Marrugeku is assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and is supported by the WA State Government through the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries and Create NSW.

Image: Abby Murray