REVIEW: My Name Is Jimi (Queensland Theatre Company)

Jimi with his mother Agnes (L) and grandmother Petharie (R)
Bille Brown Studio, West End
July 22 – August 13
“The past must exist in the present to create the future. We are not a dying culture…life without culture is life without life.”
Deeply touching and thoroughly entertaining, My Name Is Jimi is a performance about “keeping the cultural fire burning,” as told by acclaimed Australian actor Jimi Bani and his family. The production premiered in Cairns last month and is the result of a four-year collaboration between Jimi and cocreator and director, Jason Klarwein.


The production brings four generations and three languages together onstage to discuss time, culture, and life in the Torres Strait. Jimi’s grandmother, mother, brothers and son join him onstage to tell their story through dance (both traditional and disco), music, and clever integration of multimedia. Through these mediums, they discuss the conflicts of traditional culture and modern technology, and the importance of reconciling the two; culture as a vital element of personal identity; the theft of over one thousand artefacts by British anthropologist Alfred Haddon in 1899, which assisted in preserving the items in question but made them inaccessible to the people they are most important to, and to whom they rightfully belong. As light-hearted and enjoyable as the performance is, it does not shy away from harsh realities.
The projection of prerecorded footage as well as the live-streaming footage from the onstage camera created a more real-time effect. Intricate models of Mabuiag Island designed by Simona Cosentini and Simone Tesorieri were used to great effect with the live-stream camera, bringing the island to life with shifting clouds, tiny characters, and monsters from folklore that left the audience with chills. Lighting designed by Daniel Anderson and the sound and projections designed by Justin Harrison pulled it all together.

This work could easily have fallen into a drier, documentary-esque style of storytelling, but instead it was accessible, warm, funny and engaging. Jimi Bani is truly one of Australia’s great entertainers, and his infectious laugh will stay with you long after you leave the theatre, as will the impression that you have witnessed something truly special.

The Bani family – Jimi (front), Richard and Conwell Bani (middle), Dmitri Ahwang-Bani, Agnes Bani, Petharie Bani (back).


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