Review: Blood of my blood, Yirramboi

After a last-minute cancellation of one half of the double bill, ‘Blood of my blood’ persevered, echoing its exploration of First Nations people’s resilience and survival.

Blood of my blood is a new work by Jada and Dempsey Narkle, commissioned for the Yirramboi Festival. It was originally intended to be presented alongside Them Voices by Lara Kramer as a double bill, but unforeseen circumstances saw the Narkles’ 30-minute work become the entirety of the performance. 

This did them no disservice, though it would have been interesting to see how, if at all, the two pieces connected thematically.

The choreography had moments of brilliance in its ability to express the impact that Australia’s hostile colonial culture has on First Nations people and their survival despite this. Jada Narkle created shapes with her body so disjointed it was as if she had been mangled and crushed, a visual indicator of the physical and emotional toll of oppression. Crawling toward the audience, head bowed, she showcased the strength of her shoulders as they moved her body ever onward – perhaps a metaphor for resilience.

In each moment, until Narkle found safety and belonging in community toward the end of the piece, there was a sense that a violent hand was raised and ready to strike. Looking at deaths in custody and historic (though many would also say present) state-enabled abuse alone, this is a lived reality for many First Nations people. 

Read: MEERTA – Rise Up! The Ballad of James Arden, Arts Centre Melbourne

A large dunce’s cap worn by Narkle for the first third of the work elongated all of her movements to great effect and symbolically connected to negative stereotypes of First Nations people. 

However, both the choreography by the two Narkles and the score by Jenny Trinh struggled to produce variety or a sense of building to a climax. The work felt repetitive by the midway point and the ending felt stumbled upon and subdued. 

Despite its growing pains, this new production thoughtfully displayed the experiences of First Nations people through dance. 

Please note: No star rating has been provided for this production due to one half of the double bill being cancelled.

Blood of my blood
Conceived, Created, Set Design and Performance: Jada Narkle and Dempsey Narkle
Sound Design: Wytchings (Jenny Trinh)
Lighting Design: Alex Nguyen
Tickets: $10 – $35

Arts House, North Melbourne
12-13 May 2023

Jenna Schroder is an emerging arts critic, with a background in dance and voice, and an organiser at the Media, Entertainment, Arts Alliance. Outside of her union activism, Jenna can be found performing at The Improv Conspiracy, around the Melbourne comedy scene and producing independent work across multiple platforms. Twitter: @jennaschroder00