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Bran Nue Dae tours 30 years after first debut

Rachael Knowles -

Lights, camera, action! The iconic Bran Nue Dae is returning to the stage, 30 years since its debut in 1990. The play is kicking off a national tour at the Riverside Theatre Parramatta as part of Sydney Festival.

Recognised as Australia's first Aboriginal stage musical, Bran Nue Dae was created by Jimmy Chi in collaboration with his band Kuckles. The story follows the life and love of Willie and Rosie as they navigate through Western Australia in the 1960s.

The beloved classic is a story of hope, courage and pride, and is jammed packed with the classic songs, synchronised dance moves and that beautiful blackfulla humour.

The play will welcome to the stage Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) graduate Teresa Moore as Rosie, The Secret River performer Marcus Corowra as Willie and the beloved Ernie Dingo OAM who will return to his role as Uncle Tadpole.

Moore and Corowra are raring to open on Friday night.

"We've been putting in all this work for the last couple of weeks and it's all starting to come together. We're right at the pointy end, we're opening in a couple of days and I think we are all ready," Corowra said.

Moore's father, John Moore, was cast in the original production as Willie, so being able to tell this story three decades later is a particular honour.

"When I was 17, I said in a news article I wanted to be in a play exactly like Bran Nue Dae and here we are! It's important to me because there's so much history and ... you want to give it justice and tell that story once more again," Moore said.

"I hope [the audience] feel very proud and that we gave this justice. We are storytellers, it's in our blood."

"The songs are so great; the melodies are so catchy ... As much as we want people to go out clapping their hands and stomping their feet, we want that interwoven with those powerful messages and undertones," Corowra added.

Leading on from a legacy, many within the cast are family of Stephen Pigram, a member of Kuckles and co-writer of the original production.

His daughter, Naomi Pigram, is the associate director and her own children, Taj Jamieson and Tehya Jamieson, are key members of the ensemble.

Bojesse Pigram is also in the ensemble, Ngaire Pigram plays Aunty Theresa, and Danielle Sibosado is Marijuana Annie. Sibosado also works closely with Callan Purcell who plays Slippery.

Tehya Jamieson and Sibosado noted they've had a strong connection to the story since childhood.

"I feel at home, I've grown up listening and knowing the music; always singing the songs," Jamieson said.

"This is my first musical production, for myself the thing that is motivating me to keep going is what the play is about and who it is form" Sibosado said.

"This is the best first production I can do because it is a Blak-run production, the stories are so close to home, we grew up listening to these songs since we came out of the womb."

Bran Nue Dae features a cast of mostly Aboriginal artists.

"Most of us are Aboriginal ... we're all coming in different ways and from different walks of life and finding each other again. It's deadly," Purcell said.

"This is a play that exists without white people to a degree ... which is amazing. We can exist on our own, there is that independence and strength and it's exciting to celebrate that and rally that around the country."

"When you do put a call out, there's not an excuse there aren't any Aboriginal people because literally everybody on stage, bar two people ... are Aboriginal," Sibosado said.

This is Jamieson's professional musical debut. She hopes to inspire the audience to pursue and embrace the arts.

"It's very surreal, it's my first big thing. I've only performed at schools or in front of my family. I feel like I've always lived in my brother and mum's shadow; I'm coming out now and showing everybody what I can do," she said.

"I hope it motivates other Aboriginal people to be creative and younger generations too. I've always felt, watching my Aunty or Mum perform, I want to be like them and I am now."

"If you're going to buy a ticket, buy another one for someone who can't afford it. It will change their lives, pay it forward. Those young people who can't afford it, get them to the theatre, to blackfulla theatre. Try and do that if you can," Purcell added.

The production opens at Parramatta Riverside Theatre on Friday and tours across the country to Perth, Geelong, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Adelaide.

By Rachael Knowles


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