Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Friday, 24 April 2015
Black Diggers by Tom Wright, 23 April 2015 ***1/2
Presented by Arts
Centre Melbourne; originally produced by Queensland Theatre Company
& Sydney Festival Playhouse Arts Centre Melbourne, until 26 April 2015 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars:***1/2
Full review also in Herald Sun online today, Fri 24 April 2015 and in print on Sunday. KH
of war, the pain of prejudice and the solace of mateship combine in Black
Diggers, Tom Wright’s play about the 1300 unsung, aboriginal soldiers that fought
for Australia during World War One.
script does not focus on a single narrative or any one character’s story but
is, instead, episodic, with 60 short scenes that move swiftly in Wesley Enoch’s production.
based his research on the many and varied stories of young, indigenous men who
volunteered for service, despite not being recognised as citizens of their own
country at that time.
acting is uneven, these nine actors (Eliah Watego, George Bostock, Tibian Wyles,
Colin Smith, Shaka Cook, Kirk Page, Guy Simon, Luke Carroll, Trevor Jamieson) tell the soldiers’ stories with commitment and care, honouring their
memory, although the contribution of those veterans is not documented formally in
our history books.
divides into five periods, including the years before Federation, Enlistment,
The Theatre Of War on the Western Front, Turkey and Palestine, the Return to
Australia and the Legacy of the war.
several poignant scenes, including the intimate moment when a mother and
grandfather try to dissuade their lad from enlisting.
depicts a soldier death and his mate fretting about how to bring the dead man’s
spirit home to his own land when his body will lie in foreign fields.
survivor’s agony is palpable when that same man returns from war a mute and broken
man clutching a jar of dirt from his friend’s death place.
witness the heartbreaking monologue of a dead soldier whose spirit is doomed to
roam the rivers and fields of an alien land.
joyful or playful moments when we witness the indigenous men united with their
white colleagues, singing, celebrating small victories, sharing a beer or
laughing at cultural misconceptions about aboriginal people.
cheeky boys attempt to enlist by changing their names, ages and claiming that
they are ‘substantially European’ in parentage.
Anzac Day upon us, this play is timely and Wright’s embedded socio-political
commentary raises our awareness of the racial injustice of both that period and
evident that each aboriginal soldier’s story was different, with some being welcomed
by their white mates on the battlefield and at home.
experienced racial prejudice and bigotry, were rejected as Australians on their
return and denied land grants that were provided to white veterans.
Curtis’ spare design incorporates a black wall on which the men sketch names,
places and dates that they later smudge into illegibility as the chaos of war
Forget’ is written in enormous letters over the fading names of the dead
production is bumpy in parts and has several false endings, but it touches the
heart and awakens us to the war experiences of aboriginal soldiers that deserve
a greater role in our military history.
this play will prompt more people to pass on their family’s oral history to the
War Museum in Canberra.
Wright - writer
Wesley Enoch - director
Curtis - designer
Langton-Batty - costume
George Bostock, Tibian Wyles, Colin Smith, Shaka Cook, Kirk Page, Guy Simon,
Luke Carroll, Trevor Jamieson