Arnhem Land 1988
Nanjing ProjectsJuggling the Data

Action Time in Angurugu

Angurugu, a community on Groote Eylandt, was the first stop on the Circus Oz 1988 tour of Arnhem Land. The company had just finished a series of dates in Queensland, including a performance at the World Expo 88 in Brisbane, part of the company’s Tenth Anniversary World Tour.

Travelling first to Normanton, a port and outback town on the Norman River in Queensland, the company then flew out on a Douglas DC-3 propeller-driven aeroplane run by Air North. After landing at the Groote Eylandt Airport, the company of nineteen performers and crew, were lodged at a local mining camp.

The next evening, on Saturday 9 July 1988, the company performed for the Angurugu community, one of three Indigenous communities on Groote Eylandt, now part of the East Arnhem Shire: its first ever Arnhem Land show.

The 1988 tour was not, however, the company’s first trip to the remoter corners of the country. Three years earlier, in 1985, the company had travelled through the communities west of Alice Springs, including Yuendumu, Papunya, Kintore and Docker River.

Double trapeze (catcher's hang) during the company's Central Australia 1985 season (Stephen Burton, Scott Grayland).
The Knockabout: slapstick tumbling routine called with table sliding performed at the Ayers Rock Community, 16 August 1985. Features guest appearance by a local canine. Theatre and Dance Platform.

The exuberant feeling of that first tour can be judged from an account of a performance written by the Senior Boys for the newsletter of the Papunya School. The newsletter also contains a review of the show written in Pintupi language, as well as pictures drawn by the students and photographs taken on the day.

The 1985 Top End tour finished with a series of performances at Uluru, including a sunset performance on 16 August for what was then called the Ayers Rock Community and is now called the Mutitjulu Community, a performance captured on a company video recording.

The video recording of that sunset performance reveals a company lightly inhabiting the moment and place of the performance. According to performer Tim Coldwell, the shows on that tour were necessarily looser in structure than anything Circus Oz had previously performed.

Back in 1988, the company stayed one more night in Angurugu, then flew out on Sunday 10 July, heading up the spectacular East Arnhem Land coast toward Yirrkala.