Above: Mathew Cooper, Jeremy Ambrum and Meyne Wyatt.
City of Gold
By Meyne Wyatt
Directed by Isaac Drandic
Griffin Theatre/Queensland theatre co-production
Bille brown Theatre
Season: June 29-July 20. Duration: two hours 20 minutes with interval. Bookings: 1800 356 528 or www.queenslandtheatre.com.au
This story is told from Meyne Wyatt’s heart. He wrote the script and starred in the play that was inspired by his life events and set in Australia’s city of gold, Kalgoorlie. It reflects the depression that followed the death of his father and cast a pall over his successful acting career plus the humiliating racism that he experienced day in and day out for all of his life.
His simmering sense of injustice erupted after a 14-year-old indigenous boy, also a distant relative, was run over and killed by a white driver. His manslaughter charge was deemed “not guilty” by a jury that contained no indigenous members and the driver was given three years for death by dangerous driving.
It is this focus on injustice that is the focus on the play.
There are seven very talented and experienced actors both on stage and screen and two of them play triple roles, Christopher Stollery and Anthony Standish. The play opens with Wyatt as actor Breythe performing what looks like a traditional dance in traditional dress, but it slowly unfolds as outlandish colonial styled TV ad for lamb. Breythe’s embarrassment at Christopher Stolley’s white director’s patronising praise and complete ignorance of the humiliation he is unwittingly doling out sets the tone for the play.
After he quits the TVC Breythe goes home to Kalgoorlie for the family funeral of his father. We meet his family big brother Mateo, played with simmering anger and aggression by Mathew Cooper, sister Carina, (Shari Sebbens) and cousin Cliffhanger (Jeremy Ambrun). Family feuds erupt in sibling rivalries and the beer and happy bad language flow.
It is an emotional reunion, but it contains many of the laughs in an often funny script. In his dreams Breythe’s dead father (Maitland Schnaars) visits quite often and so adds to his confusion.
But no matter how funny some scenes were, there was no escaping the underlying relentless angst. Racism might be a cliché to white society, but to Meyne Wyatt and his people it is a word to be lived in anger and fear.
The cries were familiar and we have probably heard them before, but coming from the heart of the one man made the result more powerful. There were times though when it became sermonising, but these moments were forgotten with the dramatic and sudden end to the drama.
The story might have meandered at times but the strands were all pulled into stark focus at the end.
The play was a first time effort from Wyatt and like most first attempts at playwriting there were some imperfections. It was somewhat disjointed and ebbed and flowed in dramatic impact; some characters were not fully developed and at times the message was pounded too hard.
The first baby is always the most difficult to birth and it takes courage it that baby out to public scrutiny. Meyne Wyatt has talent, creativity and courage.
However, where I had criticism, the audience gave the cast a rousing, cheering standing ovation that went on for several minutes. It had obviously hit its mark.