BWW REVIEW: BLACK COCKATOO Seeks To Address The Omissions Of Australian History With An Entertaining And Enlightening Exploration Of The 1868 Aboriginal Cricket Tour Of E

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BWW REVIEW: BLACK COCKATOO Seeks To Address The Omissions Of Australian History With An Entertaining And Enlightening Exploration Of The 1868 Aboriginal Cricket Tour Of E

Friday 10th January 2020, 8:15pm Ensemble Theatre

While Australian sports, particularly cricket fans may have heard of the 1868 Aboriginal Cricket Tour of England, it is possible that the truth of the team may not be known. BLACK COCKATOO seeks to rectify this along with raising a wider awareness that history doesn't always honesty tell all the details.

BWW REVIEW: BLACK COCKATOO Seeks To Address The Omissions Of Australian History With An Entertaining And Enlightening Exploration Of The 1868 Aboriginal Cricket Tour Of E
Aaron McGrath as Johnny Mullagh and Luke Carroll as Curator (Photo: Prudence Upton)

The World Premiere of Geoffrey Atherden's BLACK COCKATOO is a wonderful balance of educating and entertaining audiences with hard hitting honesty and delightful comedy and a dash of audience participation. Presented by an all Indigenous cast under the direction of Noonuccal Nuugi man Wesley Enoch, the fictional story of a group of indigenous 20-somethings seeking to have the Wimmera Discovery Centre's exhibition honoring the real Indigenous cricketer Johnny Mullagh (Aaron McGrath) tell the darker truth behind the Aboriginal Cricket Tour plays out. Hosted and narrated by the Discovery Centre's Curator (Luke Carroll), the audience are drawn into be more than mere observers from the start of the stories that are recreated. In the modern day, the organized and more research driven Tina (Chenoa Deemal) is joined by the fired up and destructively passionate Brandon (Joseph Althouse), image focused but somewhat vague on understanding the full details of what they are fighting for Kimberly (Dubs Yunupingu) and cautious follower Alex (Colin Smith). As they break into the Discovery Centre and spend the night waiting to be discovered in the morning flash backs to 1868 play out as they learn more about Mullagh from the items held in storage, or in this case, given to the audience for safekeeping. The lies that were spun by the team's white Captain Charles Lawrence, the prejudice they faced by some of the English opposition teams, the exploitation for white amusement and the feeling of isolation play out along with an all to brief expression of the humanity and respect shown by the unlikely source.

BWW REVIEW: BLACK COCKATOO Seeks To Address The Omissions Of Australian History With An Entertaining And Enlightening Exploration Of The 1868 Aboriginal Cricket Tour Of E
Chenoa Deemal as Lady Bardwell (Photo: Prudence Upton)

Richard Roberts (Set and Costume Design) presents a clean expression of the Discovery Centre's archives with a wall of black wire lined metal shelves that house items like a model sailing ship, marching bass drum, gramophone, garden setting and numerous black cardboard archive boxes which the Curator is sorting through when the audience enters. The items from the shelves are gradually removed to tell the stories and the ability for the Curator to appear from odd spaces adds to the intrigue and amusement of the work. The performance is not confined to the traditional performance space, fully utilizing the intimate space of the theatre with the aisles making the audience feel the story is being told around them. Roberts' costuming is simple with subtle changes of a hat, or a jacket used to transform the performers from their contemporary characters to the 19th century figures of Australian police, wealthy widowers and stiff upper lip servants. McGrath as Mullagh is the only performer to take on a sole character with a representation of the cricketing whites and the suit his new benefactor gifts him and like the curator, Mullagh also breaks the fourth wall with the assistance of Trent Suidgeest's lighting design which easily transitions between created scenes and the sharing of recollections.

BWW REVIEW: BLACK COCKATOO Seeks To Address The Omissions Of Australian History With An Entertaining And Enlightening Exploration Of The 1868 Aboriginal Cricket Tour Of E
Colin Smith as Charles Lawrence (Photo: Prudence Upton)

As Mullagh, Aaron McGrath expresses the sportsman's dislike but resignation of the social structure that prevailed, making the respect shown by Chenoa Deemal's Lady Bardwell even more pointed when considered against how he was used to being treated. As coach Charles Lawrence, Colin Smith captures the oily entitlement that white people would use over the Indigenous population, presenting a thoroughly dislikable character as he highlights the fact that we can no longer dismiss the actions of the past without at least acknowledging them and committing to changing the future. Joseph Althouse's angry young man wanting to destroy the Discovery center is passionate and understandable while his presentation of Lady Bardwell's butler is delightfully comic in his formality and silent judgement of his rebellious boss. As modern day Tina, Chenoa Deemal presents a restraint as the logical and methodical brains of the group. As the 19th century Lady Bardwell she ensures that the enlightened aristocrat is seen as wanting a better world, understanding that everyone deserves respect but still being torn between what she knows is right and societies expectations. Dubs Yunupingu's presentation of Kimberly helps to anchor the contemporary scenes in the modern day as she nicely captures the habits of the younger generation of technology and image while also expressing that the young woman's interest in the subject increases when forced to spend time at the Discovery Centre. Holding everything together is Luke Carroll's delightful portrayal of the Curator as he weaves between narrating scenes and needing to interact with the audience.

BWW REVIEW: BLACK COCKATOO Seeks To Address The Omissions Of Australian History With An Entertaining And Enlightening Exploration Of The 1868 Aboriginal Cricket Tour Of E
Joseph Althouse (Photo: Prudence Upton)

Regardless of your interest in sport, BLACK COCKATOO, the title of which connects to the Indigenous mythology and beliefs, reinforces the need to allow the truth of history to be told, regardless of how uncomfortable it may make people feel. Good theatre should seek to challenge the audience and BLACK COCKATOO does that as it lays out the truth without overhyping the emotion, allowing the viewer to discover the inequity and therefore consider the way history has been whitewashed. Well worth seeing for both the storyline and the talented young cast that represent the story being told.

https://www.ensemble.com.au/shows/black-cockatoo/

https://riversideparramatta.com.au/show/black-cockatoo/

BWW REVIEW: BLACK COCKATOO Seeks To Address The Omissions Of Australian History With An Entertaining And Enlightening Exploration Of The 1868 Aboriginal Cricket Tour Of E
Dubs Yunupingu (Photo: Prudence Upton)
BWW REVIEW: BLACK COCKATOO Seeks To Address The Omissions Of Australian History With An Entertaining And Enlightening Exploration Of The 1868 Aboriginal Cricket Tour Of E
Luke Carroll as Curator (Photo: Prudence Upton)
BWW REVIEW: BLACK COCKATOO Seeks To Address The Omissions Of Australian History With An Entertaining And Enlightening Exploration Of The 1868 Aboriginal Cricket Tour Of E
Aaron McGrath as Johnny Mullagh (Photo: Prudence Upton)



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