This 30th anniversary reboot of Jimmy Chi’s enduring contribution to Australian culture, fuelled by the soul-reggae-country sounds of cult band Kuckles and the writer’s wry humour, sounds an optimistic note as Australia continues to wrestle with its reconciliation process.
“The cast of this landmark Aboriginal play, set in the 1960s, delivers this long-awaited new production with brio, instilling hope that with unity there is a way forward to reconciliation,” writes Steve Dow in The Guardian.
“Marcus Corowa gives a fabulously open-hearted and limber performance as Willie, the rebellious Aboriginal teenager who runs away from his Catholic boarding mission school in Perth, run by strict disciplinarian Father Benedictus (Andrew Moran).”
For some critics, the rebooting doesn’t go far enough.
“Original director Andrew Ross has brought the show to the stage and while it looks and sounds wonderful, strict adherence to the original script is a pity,” writes Diana Simmons on Stage Noise.
“There are plot sinkholes into which the Kombi could have fallen and never been seen again. Similarly, one-dimensional characters are unnecessarily hard on the performers and could easily be rectified (and were in the Rachel Perkins/Reg Cribb movie version).”
Limelight editor Jo Litson agrees.
“Thirty years on, the skimpiness of the featherweight narrative feels more obvious than I remember. Whether that’s just my memory or the production, I’m not sure – but the music is as irresistible as ever.
Despite the flimsiness of the plot and the clunkiness in the narrative structure, the music is irrepressible, vibrant and heart-warming, while the show’s message about the need for reconciliation is (sadly) as timely as ever, as Australia’s First Nations people lobby for more control over their own destiny.”