Sydney Festival reveals Black Cockatoo as first show of 2020 season

Sydney Festival has announced it’s first show of 2020 with Black Cockatoo, a bold new collaboration between screenwriter Geoffrey Atherden and festival artistic director Wesley Enoch.

Premiereing at the festival, Black Cockatoo tells the story of legendary cricketer Johnny Mullagh, bringing together Sydney Festival and Ensemble Theatre to explore the tale of Australia’s first ever international sporting team.

Opening in the present day, with a group of young activists sneaking into the Wimmera Discovery Centre in the hope of finding out more about Mullagh, the action then shifts to over a century earlier, when thirteen Aboriginal cricketers headed to England, to represent a country that didn’t even recognise them as human.

“Cricket brought the team to England but that’s not what the story is about – it’s the effect that travel had on the team, and particularly on one of the team members, Johnny Mullagh. The tour was a success contained within a tragedy: while the team were away, the authorities – who didn’t want them to go in the first place – moved their people off their lands onto reserves and into mission stations. Johnny Mullagh is the only person on the team who didn’t submit to that and stayed on his own lands” said playwright Atherden.

Black Cockatoo is the seventh project Wesley Enoch has directed for Sydney Festival, following celebrated seasons of The Sunshine Club (2000), Eora Crossing (2004), The Sapphires (2005), Nargun and the Stars (2009), I Am Eora (2012) and Black Diggers (2014).

He said: “It’s been great to bring Ensemble Theatre, Sydney Festival, Geoffrey Atherden and this incredible group of people together to premiere Black Cockatoo at Sydney Festival in 2020. For me, Black Cockatoo is talking about our rights as Aboriginal Australians. Yes, it’s talking about a game we know very well, in fact taught to us by the colonists, but it is a significant moment in Australian sporting history that remains largely unacknowledged and unknown. It’s fantastic to be working with the descendants of the First XI to help tell this important story.”

Now in its 44th year, the Sydney Festival will return to the city from the 8th to the 26th of January. The full program will be announced on October 30th.

Black Cockatoo will play as part of Sydney Festival from January 4th to February 8th at Ensemble Theatre.
Tickets go on general sale from October 31st. For more information, please see the Sydney Festival website.

 

Like it? Share it!

Jodie Sloan

Rogue academic, philosophical sloven, and earnest scribbler. Likes: Stiff drinks, good books, and the musical stylings of Frank Sinatra. Also likes: Pop culture, feminism, and excessive use of CAPSLOCK.