Review: Baleen Moondjan

A heartfelt and mesmerising story honouring a deep relationship

international review (adelaide) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Baleen Moondjan, image from 28 Feb 2024 performance, photo by Roy Van Der Vegt
Published 29 Feb 2024

Set among whale bones on Pathawilyangga (Glenelg) Beach at sunset, Baleen Moondjan tells the story of a proud Elder, a curious granddaughter and the day a baleen whale comes close to shore.

Inspired by a story passed down from Stephen Page’s grandmother from the Ngugi/Nunukul/Moondjan people of Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island), Baleen Moondjan honours the deep relationship between First Nations people, their totems and their connection to the earth, sky and sea. As the sun dips below the horizon, on Wednesday night, the sandbar-like stage is brought to life as a group of dancers make their way inside the Whale’s belly accompanied by powerful song. The bones loom large over the stage, illuminated with lights to create a beautiful display of colour throughout the show.

Photo by Roy Van Der Vegt

The vocal performances by Granny Gindara and her granddaughter are soulful and heartfelt, causing more goosebumps than the cool sea breeze. Moments of silence are filled by the sound of crashing waves in the distance, the perfect touch to the overall soundscape. Blending English, Jandai and Gumbaynggirr/Yaegl languages with traditional and contemporary music styles, the story is told beautifully with mesmerising choreography.

Despite the audience packing together tightly along the beach, the passion on stage makes it feel intimate. A stunning world premiere and festival debut, Page’s comeback is captivating from start to finish and met with a well-deserved standing ovation. If planning on seeing the show, bring a picnic blanket or a low chair to sit on and arrive early to secure a good viewing spot before the show starts.



Baleen Moondjan, Glenelg (Pathawilyangga) Beach, until 2 March