Canberra Theatre Centre - Black Diggers

Mar 26, 2015

Over the past six months I have been a guest of Canberra Theatre Centre at a number of their productions. I have seen the super human acrobatic efforts of Circa, experienced  a little bit of Broadway in Canberra with the musical Sweet Charity, watched the great Shakespeare interpreted by the Bell Shakespeare company, relived my childhood watching Mary Poppins, indulged in the ballet and some comedy.

Each time I come out of a production, I felt a little wiser for knowing the story that was just told or marvelling at the talent I had just seen; and tonight was no exception watching Black Diggers.

The play

With one month until the 100th anniversary of ANZAC landings at Gallipoli, do we already know all the stories from World War 1? Last night I discovered the little known stories of the Black Diggers.

Black Diggers tells the untold stories of Indigenous soldiers in World War 1. An all male, all aboriginal cast tell the extraordinary stories of the men shunned and downtrodden in their own country – and in fact banned by their own government from serving in the military – Aboriginal men had to hide their heritage to enlist. The production follows them from their homelands to the battlefields of Gallipoli, Palestine and Flanders and we follow those that survived back home to find out what awaits them.

Grand in scale and scope the project draws from in-depth interviews with the families of Black Diggers, as well as conversations with veterans, historians and academics.

The venue

On at the Playhouse - Canberra TheatreCentre from the 26th – 28th March.

The set was a simple construction of chalkboard along the walls, with chalk paint used to write names, years and places setting up each scene for the audience.

The verdict

It was a brilliant story told honestly. No glorification of war, no propaganda or political correctness interfered with the story. It was a straightforward amalgam of the Black Diggers experiences and representations allowing the men portrayed to step from the pages of history to share their compelling stories.

After all is said and done, the final scene is a rather haunting and slightly emotional rendition of a bugle playing the “Last Post” accompanied by a didgeridoo on stage and as the curtain falls I think that all that see this production we will remember them - all of them that served.

Canberra Theatre Centre is located in Civic Square on London Circuit, Canberra City