REVIEW | Gurr Era Op

Gurr Era Op

A Stirring Journey Through Culture and Climate

Reviewed by Brendan Daynes

GURR ERA OP (“the face of the sea” in Meriam Mir) is a powerful and moving production that masterfully intertwines Torres Strait Islander contemporary storytelling, movement, and spoken word. Directed and performed by the award-winning choreographer Ghenoa Gela, this production is both a celebration of culture and a poignant call to action against the devastating impacts of climate change on the Torres Strait Islands.

As the lights dimmed, the audience was transported into the world of three mainland-born Torres Strait Islander women grappling with the erosion of their homeland. The narrative, which delves into the profound questions of identity, belonging, and cultural preservation, resonated deeply, making the distant struggles of these women feel immediate and personal.

The performances by Gela, Taryn Beatty, and Aba Bero were nothing simply exceptional. Each performer brought a unique energy and authenticity to the stage, seamlessly blending traditional dance with contemporary movement. Their storytelling was so vivid and intricate that it painted detailed pictures of their homeland, making the audience feel as if they were walking the shores of the Torres Strait Islands, witnessing the rising tides firsthand.

Gela’s direction was both innovative and deeply respectful of her cultural heritage. The choreography, seamlessly integrating traditional and contemporary styles, was passionately executed, narrating tales of resilience, loss, and hope that deeply engaged the audience, evoking a sense of familiarity.

One of the production’s standout elements was its ability to use storytelling to not only entertain but also to educate and inspire action. The narrative skilfully highlighted the urgent threat of climate change, making the audience acutely aware of what is being lost as the waters encroach upon the Torres Strait Islands. This was not just a performance but a powerful piece of advocacy that demonstrated how art can influence public perception and spur action on critical issues.

The production elements were equally impressive. Katy Moir’s set design was immersive, ingeniously incorporating culturally specific elements to vividly evoke a powerful sense of place. Lisa Fa’alafi’s costumes, beautifully crafted to reflect the rich cultural heritage of the Torres Strait Islanders, cleverly incorporated UV masks that symbolically addressed the contemporary struggle against environmental devastation. Kelsey Lee’s lighting design added depth and emotion to the performance, enhancing the storytelling with subtle shifts in mood and atmosphere.

GURR ERA OP is a testament to the power of theatre to not only entertain but also to educate and inspire. It beautifully showcases the rich cultural heritage of the Torres Strait Islanders while also addressing a critical global issue. For those fortunate enough to witness this remarkable production, it is an experience that will stay with you after the final curtain falls.

GURR ERA OP played as part of Melbourne’s RISING festival at ArtsHouse from 12th June – 16th June 2024. For more information, visit

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