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Byron Shire
February 3, 2023

Tiwi Islands twist on Snow White

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Goosebumps-raising, joyful and emotional, Wulamanayuwi and the Seven Pamanui mixes the enchanting tradition of European fairytales with the creation characters and stories of the Tiwi Islands.

Using the language and rhyme, culture and stories of the Tiwi Islands, playwright and performer Jason De Santis brings to life this classic tale of good, evil and magical redemption. Wulamanayuwi and the Seven Pamanui is a visually layered production using puppets, song, dance and projections to bring to life a modern adventure story, inspired by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Playwright Jason De Santis explains his inspiration for the work.

‘Growing up I had always loved hearing stories, especially from my Nanna Martha and my Poppy Vince in Darwin. Then in the school holidays, I would go home to Tiwi Islands, and hear stories about “little men” like the Pamanui in this story and “mapurtiti” spirits, bush people and creation beings.

‘In Melbourne in 2008, feeling homesick but incredibly inspired seeing other blackfellas creating, directing and acting in theatre, I couldn’t help but think about the islands and suddenly all the stories I had been told came flooding back to me and all I wanted to do was write. I wanted to write a story that had elements of white and black culture, funny, sad, scary and exciting, like the stories I had been told.’

WULAMANAYUWI_blue&bird_hires-NORPAFive actors play a host of characters, operate puppets and perform live music. The narrator Jarparra, the Moon Man, introduces us to Wulamanayuwi, the daughter of a Tiwi warrior, who has run away from her evil stepmother. Guided by a white cockatoo, Wulamanayuwi encounters creatures of magical significance – the seven Pamanui – who lead her on a joyful and surprising journey.

Director Eamon Flack is delighted to be involved in the project. ‘I love the demands of the work itself – to identify all the streams of tradition going on in the work, from old-fashioned panto to Tiwi tradition to the particular idioms of a kind of contemporary Indigenous stock of humorous characters and behaviours – a sort of semi-defined blackfella commedia dell’arte – I loved drawing all these traditions into a whole.

‘The play is actually enormous – there is so much going on in there – but we’ve found a way of arranging all that chaos into this quite contained little living puppet show.’

Wulamanayuwi inhabits a visually stunning world of fantasy, full of spirit-beings, bush creatures and mischievous water spirits. The Jilimara Arts and Craft Association in Milikapiti and the students of the Milikapiti Primary School of Melville Island made the puppets and set.

Packed with spirit and humour, Wulamanayuwi and the Seven Pamanui will delight audiences young and old. De Santis believes audiences will love the show. ‘It’s mischievous, hilarious and magical. There’s a lot in there for everybody. I think people will leave learning a lot about Tiwi culture but also, about their own culture as well.

‘It’s a pretty charming and fun and surprising little show that’s at its best when there’s a mix of adults and kids in the house,’ says director Eamon Flack. ‘The show is a sort of multifunction invitation to a whole variety of humours and people and ages and backgrounds to join in on our silly little adventure. Plus it’s a love story – that’s always a delight.’

Wulamanayuwi and the Seven Pamanu

Writer Jason De Santis

Director Eamon Flack

Designer Bryan Woltjen

Lighting Designer Richard Vabre

Composer Jeffrey ‘Yellow’ Simon

Scenic Painting (Set) Raelene Kerinauai

Puppetry Director & AV Imagery Sam Routledge

Scenic Painting (Puppets) Pedro Wonaeamirri, John Peter Pilakui and Linus Warlapinni

Performers Dalara Williams, Kamahi Djordon King, Natasha Wanganeed, Jason De Santis, Jaxon De Santis


Tuesday April 8, 11am & 6pm – www.norpa.org.au.


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