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This powerful play includes the results of exhaustive research and much historical material is quoted verbatim. Tom Wright’s own beautiful, original writing adds richly to the complex and satisfying theatrical form, masterfully crafted into Black Diggers. This moving and vivid account of our Aboriginal servicemen places Indigenous soldiers at the heart of the Anzac myth. Irony and humour prevail throughout the narrative in glimpses of the young and hopeful deciding to enlist, and the horror of war told through letters home, short brutal episodes at the front, homecomings, and the striking monologues of the soldiers. Hymns and songs offer additional emotional layers.
Aboriginal men expected their service in World War I would change the perspective of the white population back home. The stories of those who served, returned and suffered again the unchanged prejudices offer today’s audience profound revelations of the gross injustices suffered by the black diggers. This is old history made new, vividly brought to the stage through fluid and well-paced storytelling. The span and the scope of this work is impressive and, with exquisite detail over 60 scenes, Wright makes the political personal. He quietly and systematically uncovers a dark chapter in Australian history, with humour, irony, poignancy, punch and the facts.
The epic sweep of Black Diggers delivers a complex and finely wrought picture of our past without anger or heat. It comes from a place of conviction within the writer and touches somewhere deep within us all. It is essential theatre, rare in our canon. Elegant and sensitive, it touches our collective funny bone, our conscience and our heart.