Queensland Theatre’s My Name is Jimi at Bille Brown Studio is yet another triumph.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Bille Brown Studio productions, and this gem is one that will remain with me (and I suspect the entire audience) for a long time. In a little over an hour, viewers are whisked through the story of Mabuiag Island in the Torres Strait. It’s a charming, sincere, intellectual, profound, moving experience. Take the kids — they will love it.

It is utterly charming.

Through dioramas and popup storybooks, the past and myths are recounted. The staging is entrancing — I could have watched dozens of these vignettes. And delivery is innovative. The stories are delightful and interspersed throughout the play to underscore.

It is unshakably sincere. The show is told by four generations Jimi (Jimi Bani), his son Dmitri, his brothers (Conwell and Richard), mother Agnes, and grandmother Petharie — people whom you love immediately.

Jimi and brothers open with a traditional dance, and then he returns (in a natty suit) to explain his extended extended family (the projection onto the night sky is stagecraft gold) with their indigenous words (spoiler alert: this becomes important later). Jimi is high octane, whether performing a traditional dance or getting down to disco — his breakdancing skills won’t get him on Australia’s Got Talent though. Jimi guides us; he is an everyday guy with a modern family, father to a footy-loving-techno-plugged son, grandson to a visionary, and heir to the preservation of the culture and language of his peoples. He will soon be the 9th Chief of Wagadagam. Luckily he has big shoulders.

We learn of his grandfather’s wise ways. Canadian educated as a linguist, Ephraim Bani, Jr. and his wife spent time travelling the world trying to reclaim artifacts appropriated by Cambridge scholars and others (presumably). Replicas of items that still haven’t been returned are displayed in suspended museum-esque glass boxes.

The family isn’t bitter, they understand that without preservation some items wouldn’t have survived. But still . . .

Through three languages (oral and non-verbal; patios and contemporary), we learn the importance of communication. Of culture. And of family. Dmitri fiddles with his iphone and attention to the very real frustration of his family. Yes, it’s easy to say ‘put that thing away’—but how can anyone stop the march of time and technology—globally and locally.

It’s a unique piece of theatre. Layers of meaning are packed into simple scenes. And it’s funny.

At the end the audience is moved – transfixed and transformed. What more can you ask?

Jason Klarwein – masterful conception and direction. Justin Harrison – bravo for the sound and projection. Daniel Anderson – kudos for the lighting. And most of al, Bani family – thank you for sharing.

My Name is Jimi will run until 13 August.

Read our review of QPAC’s The Bodyguard here.

 

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