Sydney Festival: The Secret River

Tonight was the last of our Sydney Festival events: The Secret River at Sydney Theatre. An adaptation of a popular recent historical novel, it tells a possible story of early English settlers on Aboriginal-inhabited land north of Sydney.

Some of the cast of The Secret River

Some of the cast of The Secret River

The story is a moral tale, and a very likely settlement scenario. It shows how the backgrounds of the early convicts could easily have a played a part in both their desire to find land for a new life as well as well as their attitudes towards others (especially those they viewed as savages).

While parts of the play felt compressed and melodramatic I think this was a necessary consequence of the compression of a very long novel. The second half was nonetheless pretty moving stuff.

It was excellently staged. My favourite part of a play is often the mechanical and imaginative tricks they use to create their imagery. Boats, gunfire, and animals are all some of the things that are cleverly imitated or symbolised.

It’s a gripping, relevant piece of theatre that can make you think about how things got to be the way they are in Australia.


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