SILENCE at the Sydney Opera House empowers people to speak up against the White noise

Part of UnWrapped, a series dedicated to uncovering the best independent creators, SILENCE, at the Sydney Opera House, is a visually stunning and deeply moving performance. Created by Karul Projects and produced by BlakDance, this contemporary dance work successfully examines and disrupts the deliberate and ongoing silence surrounding more than 250 years’ worth of struggle.

Bringing the conversation around Treaty front and centre, SILENCE incorporates live music, a dynamic soundtrack and intricate storytelling to create a captivating experience. Mirning and Wuthathi man, Jhindu-Pedro Lawrie, is an absolute powerhouse on drums and percussion, creating a beat and rhythm that will land in your chest and stay with you.

Jhindu-Pedro Lawrie

Performers Yidindji, Birri Gubba, Meriam Mer and Tanna Island man Benjin Maza, Githabul Migunberri-Yugumbeh woman Keia McGrady, Indjalandji-Dhidhanu and Alyewarre woman Glory Tuohy-Daniell, Wulli Wulli woman Olivia Adams, Birpai woman Tamara Bouman, and choreographer/writer Minjungbal-Yugambeh, Wiradjuri and Ni-Vanuatu man Thomas E.S. Kelly are flawless. Every movement is deliberate, each expression conveying a moment and each moment pulsing with a heightened intensity.

Despite this intensity, the performance is punctuated by moments of humour. In particular, a call between the Commonwealth of Australia and their Landlords heralded many laughs, as did Maza’s monologue about a “Treaty for Beginners”. While this balance of intensity and levity was a welcome surprise, underpinning that humour is the knowledge that of all the Commonwealth countries, of which there are 56, Australia is the only one that does not have a Treaty with its First Nations people.

There is justifiable rage throughout SILENCE, a rage at the constant barrage of White noise and broken promises, rage at the fact that nothing changes.

Evoking all the senses, this mesmerising performance takes inspiration from significant moments in Australian history. In particular, the iconic moment when AFL player Nicky Winmar, in response to racial abuse hurled at him during a 1993 game, raised his jersey and pointed to his skin shouting, ‘I’m black and I’m proud to be black.’ Watching the performers lift their shirts to recreate this powerful gesture was incredibly impactful.

Keia McGrady

As a privileged white person I feel ill equipped to write about how incredible this performance was, despite the fact that, as a white person, I suspect I was the target audience. I do not know what it’s like to have my land stolen from me. I do not know what it’s like to have my family torn apart. I do not know what it’s like to face racism and incarceration. But do we really have to experience something to know it’s wrong? SILENCE was a confronting performance, but confrontation is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it can be the moment that opens your eyes to things that make you uncomfortable. But from discomfort comes change. And we need change. No more White noise.

Raw, honest and powerful, SILENCE is contemporary Australian dance at its best.


SILENCE will perform at the Sydney Opera House until May 11 2024.

For more information and to buy tickets head to the Sydney Opera House website.

Reviewer attended on May 8 2024.

Photography by Joseph Mayers