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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | July 2, 2020

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Australian History Comes Alive in The Secret River

Australian History Comes Alive in The Secret River

| On 01, Mar 2016

After a sold out Sydney season in 2013, The Secret River arrives in Brisbane for the first time. Winner of six Helpmann Awards, The Secret River is a harrowing piece of theatre that is guareented to leave its mark on Brisbane audiences.

The Secret River is a thought-provoking and bold adaptation of Kate Grenville’s classic novel that tells the story of two families divided by culture and land. It tells of a fictional meeting between white settlers and an indigenous tribe on the Hawkesbury River from the perspective of English convict William Thornhill.

The work of adapter Andrew Bovell and director Neil Armfield must be commended for turning Grenville’s already gripping novel into a theatrical masterpiece. The two do not shy away from the tough material and have subsequently created one of the most daring pieces of theatre currently showing in the country.

The play is told in third person and allowed the audience to see all sides of the story. The beautifully devastating musical score by the talented Isaac Hayward doesn’t demand to be heard but rather echoes the movements onstage. The audience were completely immersed in the Australian outback thanks to the detailed set design by Stephen Curtis.

The Secret River 2 (2)

Nathaniel Dean gives a flawless performance as Thornhill, a good man who ultimately loses himself in greed. He shows the conflict his character faces in a spine-chilling role. A brilliant cast of Indigenous performers make up the small community that fall victim to the Thornhill’s enterprise and expansion. The actors speak in traditional Dharug language however, it is never translated. Surprisingly, this works for the production as it shows the juxtaposition between the two groups. Even though it wasn’t translated, the audience were able to interpret the meaning due to the incredible facial expressions and vocal range from the cast.

The Secret River tells a story that most of us learnt back in primary school. However, this version showcases the raw emotions felt by both sides. The play is an exploration into human nature that points the spotlight on themes such as greed, friendship and love. The fleeting moments of humour reminded the audience that even in the darkest of times, we can always find a glimpse of light. The Secret River is a novel that should be read in all schools, and this play is one that all Australians should see.


What The Secret River

Where Playhouse Theatre, QPAC

When  25 February– 5  March, 2016

How Much $68 – 120

For more information or to book tickets, head QPAC’s website here.

Images: Queensland Theatre Company