Ensemble Theatre

Black Cockatoo

By Geoffrey Atherden directed by Wesley Enoch


A new Australian play inspired by the true story of legendary First Nations cricketer Johnny Mullagh and Australia’s first ever international sporting team. But this is not just about cricket, this is a compelling story of strength, resistance, hope and possibility directed by Wesley Enoch and featuring a stellar cast.

''A sincere and tender proclamation, paying tribute to Indigenous identities past and present"


Over 150 years ago, 13 brave Aboriginal men in Western Victoria picked up their cricket bats and embarked on a treacherous voyage to England and into the unknown – all in the name of sport. Risking illness and persecution, Australia’s first international cricket team – including Australia's first Indigenous sporting hero, Johnny Mullagh – amazed the English crowds with astonishing talent, personality and grit. They should have returned to Australia as celebrated heroes. Instead they came back to find the world they once knew was no longer there.

This is not just a story about cricket – this is a story of strength, resistance, hope and possibility. When a group of young present-day activists sneaks into the Wimmera Discovery Centre to expose the truth of what happened to Johnny and his team mates, a hidden legend of triumph and tragedy unfolds. Funny and incredibly moving, Black Cockatoo is a collaboration between iconic Australian writer Geoffrey Atherden (Mother and Son, Babakiujera) and Sydney Festival Artistic Director Wesley Enoch (Black Diggers).

REVIEWS

"This amazing Australian story rings with authenticity, humour and quirky compassion"  ★★★★ Stage Noise

"A vibrant, fascinating and challenging production" ★★★★ Artshub

"Commendably and sensitively asks difficult questions... entertaining and informative" Audrey Journal

"Ripe with emotion, wit, and reflection" ★★★★ State of the Art

"A wonderful balance of educating and entertaining... hard hitting honesty and delightful comedy"  Broadway World


FROM THE DIRECTOR

Australian Cricket is full of characters and stories. Few would know about the first-ever Australian team to tour to England; that it was made up of 13 Aboriginal cricketers from Western Victoria, that one player died and was buried in London or that Johnny Mullagh was our first Australian sporting hero. Telling neglected stories is what theatre does well.

The decision to have an all-Indigenous cast, where the actors play all roles including white English characters, is a way of owning the whole story and providing a commentary on race politics. Actors switch seamlessly from actors today, Aboriginal characters in 2018, and a range of characters in 1868. Time and place are fluid as we connect the past, present, and future to tell this story.

Wesley Enoch


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