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15.12.2013
The Secret River, now showing at the Playhouse QPAC, is based on a novel by Kate Grenville, adapted to stage by Andrew Bovell and presented by the Queensland Theatre company.
The issue at first glance appears very black and white, us versus them, right versus wrong. The power and significance of this story had potential to leave the audience feeling schooled at the expense of entertainment.
This play does not shy away from the trauma of the story; with strong language, physical and sexual violence it is not one for young children. WeekendNotes will notify you of the best free community events, concerts, exhibitions, cinema, festivals, and markets in your town or city.
Set in early colonial times, pardoned convict William Thornhill, his wife and two sons, seize a parcel of land on the banks of the Hawksbury River north of Sydney to farm. Stephen Curtis’s brilliant set design overwhelmed as you walked into the theatre - a floor to ceiling cyclorama of ghost-gum trunks, with a campfire downstage, on a circular stage area that juts out into the auditorium. An ensemble cast of indigenous and white actors brought this harsh frontier landscape vividly to life, their faces all painted with white-ash. As the illiterate ticket-of-leave man Nathaniel Dean was a strong presence as William Thornhill, an idealist who’s conflicted and makes a terrible decision he has to live with for the rest of his life. It’s not surprising The Secret River won six Helpmann Awards for its inaugural season in 2013.


To keep up with the latest news and reviews at Stage Whispers, click here to like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. The Secret River became an instant Australian classic following it's sold out success for the Sydney Theatre Company in 2013.
Directed by Neil Armfield, The Secret River is a story of two families divided by culture and land. Winner of six Helpmann Awards, including Best Play, Best Direction and Best New Australian Work, The Secret River was heralded as "a stunning, shattering piece of theatre that goes to the heart of our history" (Sunday Telegraph).
Cast includes: Joshua Brennan, Shaka Cook, Nathaniel Dean, Jennifer Hagan, Trevor Jamieson, Ningali Lawford-Wolf, Madeleine Madden, Colin Moody, Richard Piper, Rory Potter, Bruce Spence and Matthew Sunderland.
The area has been home to the indigenous Dharug people for 40 thousand years and they resent the intrusion of the colonists.
The aboriginal actors only spoke in the native Dharug tongue, whilst the white performers at various times played dogs and kangaroos.
As his wife, Sal, Georgia Adamson expressed sympathy and guts and was not afraid to show raw emotion when needed. It now returns for an encore season at Roslyn Packer Theatre in February 2016, followed by a tour to Brisbane's QPAC for the Queensland Theatre Company and to the Arts Centre, Melbourne. Andrew Bovell (When the Rain Stops Falling, Lantana) adapts Kate Grenville's novel exploring the conflict between transported thief William Thornhill and the Dharug people on whose land by the Hawkesbury River he attempts to settle.


In a program note director Armfield admits they toyed with the idea of using sur-titles, but discarded it. Ningali Lawford-Wolf’s narrator Dhirrumbin was a dominating force mystically weaving in and out of the action holding it all together. Grenville's story confronts the brutality which follows this collision of cultures, and the stage adaptation explores the heartbreaking experiences of both the Dharug people and the European settlers. Originally seen in 2013, this new production has allowed the creatives to take a second look at the material and the result was searingly memorable. Whilst the family learn to adapt and live with their Aboriginal neighbours, conflict escalates and a massacre ensues. Richard Piper, Bruce Spence, Jennifer Hagan, Colin Moody and Matthew Sunderland played a ragtag group of Hawksbury River misfits who provided most of the evening’s humour and a lot of its horror, whilst Trevor Jamieson was a perceptive elder Ngalamalum. The staging also gives a voice to the land and the river, and shows how human stories are uniquely shaped by their environment.
The Secret River depicts a turning point in the development of Australia; a fork in the road with the chosen path resulting in consequences we all live with today.



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