A provocative new cabaret that flips the lid on historical fiction and celebrates the global voice of First Nations people, Sydney Opera House presents the world premiere of Natives Go Wild in The Studio this October.
This unmissable production interweaves sharp political satire and social commentary with edge-of-your-seat performances. It pays homage to the past and gives a humorous, dazzling, poignant and critical nod to the future in a theatrical whirlwind of burlesque, vaudeville, circus and cabaret-style entertainment.
Natives Go Wild begins in 1883 on Hinchinbrook and Palm islands in Far North Queensland. Tambo is one of 17 Aboriginal men, women and children – including his wife – who were ‘recruited’ as star attractions in PT Barnum’s money spinner, The Ethnological Congress of Strange Tribes.
Over time, more First Nations people were cast as ‘human oddities’ and performers, such as The Aboriginal Cannibal Boomerang Throwers featured in Barnum & Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth. In the later part of the 19th and early 20th centuries, a number of First Nations people changed their identity to escape the Aborigines Protection Board and were frequently billed in touring productions as Spanish, South American or Wild Indian.
Acts included acrobat William ‘Little Nugget’ Jones and ‘The Wizard of the Wire’ tightrope walker Con Colleano. These largely unknown stories will come to life in as new cabaret, conceived and written by Sydney Opera House Head of First Nations Programming, Rhoda Roberts AO.
“Natives Go Wild honours First Nations performers from the early days, while revealing their hidden stories,” says Rhoda Roberts. “Humour, song, wicked dance and old-age rituals are coupled with mesmerising aerial acts, creating the magic and illusion of the circus that will draw you in.”
“But this theatre cabaret-style show also has a twist: the dark and disturbing nature of ‘human oddities’ exploitation. Re-examining the historical photographs and truth-telling offers more than light entertainment – their eyes from long ago tell a different story,” she added.
Natives Go Wild is directed by Chelsea McGuffin (Company 2), and is joined by Mark Howett as Assistant Director, Set and Lighting Designer, Musical Direction by Damian Robinson (Wicked Beat Sound System) and Oscar-winning Costume Designer, Tim Chappel (The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert).
The cast includes Mer Island dancer Waangenga Blanco; Ngati Haua entertainer Mika Haka; Mununjali circus artist Beau James; Niuean acrobat and aerial contortionist Josephine Mailisi; Tongan performance artist Seini F. Taumoepeau (aka SistaNative); and Rotuman musician and performer Samuela Taukave (aka Skillz).
Natives Go Wild
The Studio – Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point
Season continues to 27 October 2019
Information and Bookings: www.sydneyoperahouse.com
Image: Natives Go Wild – photo by Daniel Boud