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y Black Diggers single work   musical theatre   war literature  
Issue Details: First known date: 2014... 2014 Black Diggers
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'One hundred years ago, in 1914, a bullet from an assassin’s gun in Sarajevo sparked a war that ignited the globe. Patriotic young men all over the world lined up to join the fight – including hundreds of Indigenous Australians.

Shunned and downtrodden in their own country – and in fact banned by their own government from serving in the military – Aboriginal men stepped up to enlist. Undaunted, these bold souls took up arms to defend the free world in its time of greatest need. For them, facing the horror of war on a Gallipoli beach was an escape from the shackles of racism at home, at a time when Aboriginal people stood by, segregated, unable to vote, unable to act as their children were ripped from them. When the survivors came back from the war, there was no heroes’ welcome – just a shrug, and a return to drudgery and oppression.

Black Diggers is the story of these men – a story of honour and sacrifice that has been covered up and almost forgotten.

Directed by Wesley Enoch and written by Tom Wright, Black Diggers is the culmination of painstaking research into the lives and deaths of the thousand or so Indigenous soldiers who fought for the British Commonwealth in World War I.

Grand in scale and scope, it draws from in-depth interviews with the families of black Diggers who heard the call to arms from all over Australia, as well as conversations with veterans, historians and academics. Young men will step from the blank pages of history to share their compelling stories – and after the curtain falls, we will finally remember them.' (Source: QPAC 'What's On', September 2014)



Production Details

  • Produced by Sydney Festival & Queensland Theatre Company in association with the Balnaves Foundation.

    World premiere at the Sydney Festival January 2014

  • Director: Wesley Enoch.

    Set Designer: Stephen Curtis

    Costume Designer: Ruby Langton-Batty

    Lighting Designer: Ben Hughes

    Composer/Sound Designer: Tony Brumpton

    Dramaturg: Louise Gough

    Cultural Consultant: George Bostock

    Researcher: David Williams


    Luke Carroll

    George Bostock

    David Page

    Hunter Page-Lochard

    Guy Simon

    Colin Smith

    Eliah Watego

    Meyne Wyatt

    Tibian Wyles

    Black Diggers Indigenous Reference Group

    Uncle Harry Allie

    Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver AM

    Dr Jackie Huggins AM FAHA

    Pastor Ray Minniecon

    Gary Oakley

    Garth O’Connell

    Colin Watego

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

First known date: 2014
    • Fortitude Valley, Fortitude Valley - New Farm area, Brisbane - North East, Brisbane, Queensland,: Playlab , 2015 .
      Image courtesy of publisher's website.
      Extent: 99p.p.
      ISBN: 9781921390814

Works about this Work

Screening Live Performance : Australia's Major Theatre Companies in the Age of Digital Transmission Richard Fotheringham , 2016 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australasian Drama Studies , April no. 68 2016; (p. 3-33)
'This article is in four parts. First, I discuss the emerging worldwide phenomenon of commercial cinema screenings of live stage performances. Second, I chart some attempts by Australia's major performing arts organisations to do likewise. Third, I examine more closely one simultaneous satellite relay screening to nine regional cities: a performance of a Queensland Theatre Company (QTC) production of Tom Wright's Black Diggers, directed by Wesley Enoch, on Wednesday 8 October 2014. Finally, I attempt some brief thoughts on where this new area of work could be heading.' (Publication abstract)
y Tom Wright's Black Diggers and Fred D'Aguiar's The Longest Memory Anica Boulanger-Mashberg , Cheltenham : Insight Publications , 2016 10102400 2016 single work criticism
‘Addressing a Great Silence’: Black Diggers and the Aboriginal Experience of War Liza-Mare Syron , 2015 single work criticism
— Appears in: New Theatre Quarterly , vol. 31 no. 3 2015; (p. 223-231)
'In 2014 Indigenous theatre director Wesley Enoch announced in an interview that ‘the aim of Indigenous theatre is to write into the public record neglected or forgotten stories’. He also spoke about the aims of a new Australian play, Black Diggers, as ‘honouring and preserving’ these stories. For Enoch, Black Diggers (re)addresses a great silence in Australia’s history, that of the Aboriginal experience of war. Also in 2014, the memorial sculpture Yininmadyemi Thou Didst Let Fall, commissioned by the City of Sydney Council, aimed to place in memoriam the story of forgotten Aboriginal soldiers who served during international conflicts, notably the two world wars. Both Black Diggers and the Yininmadyemi memorial sculpture are counter-hegemonic artefacts and a powerful commentary of a time of pseudo-nationalist memorialization. Both challenge the validity of many of Australia’s socio-political and historical accounts of war, including the frontier wars that took place between Aboriginal people and European settlers. Both unsettle Australia’s fascination with a memorialized past constructed from a culture of silence and forgetfulness. ' (Publication abstract)
Review : Black Diggers Ben Brooker , 2015 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , June-July no. 372 2015; (p. 40)

— Review of Black Diggers Tom Wright 2014 single work musical theatre
Service and Sacrifice Angus Houston , 2015 single work column
— Appears in: Reconciliation News , April no. 32 2015; (p. 3)
'Indigenous Australians have served in every conflict involving Austral and her servicemen and women. They were prominent participants in World War I and the Anzac Centenary gives us the opportunity to highlight their service and sacrifice...'
Lest We Forget : Forgotten Diggers Get a Hearing 2013 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 26-27 October 2013; (p. 3)

— Review of Black Diggers Tom Wright 2014 single work musical theatre
Black Diggers : The Untold Story 2013 single work review
— Appears in: Reconciliation News , December no. 28 2013; (p. 3)

— Review of Black Diggers Tom Wright 2014 single work musical theatre
Black Diggers : Challenging Anzac Myths Paul Daley , 2014 single work review
— Appears in: The Guardian Australia , 14 January 2014;

— Review of Black Diggers Tom Wright 2014 single work musical theatre
'Hundreds of Indigenous servicemen fought for the British empire in the first world war – but are forgotten by many. A new play aims to challenge the cultural caricature of the Anzac digger.'
Digging Up a Forgotten Past Jason Blake , 2014 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 20 January 2014; (p. 14)

— Review of Black Diggers Tom Wright 2014 single work musical theatre
Culture Clash : Home Truths of Black Diggers John McCallum , 2014 single work review
— Appears in: The Australian , 20 January 2014; (p. 12)

— Review of Black Diggers Tom Wright 2014 single work musical theatre
Forgotten in the Line of Fire Steve Dow , 2013 single work column
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 15 October 2013; (p. 14)

'Aboriginal soldiers' stories are finally being told...'

Tale of Black Diggers a Proud Memorial Phil Brown , 2014 single work column
— Appears in: The Courier-Mail , 9 January 2014; (p. 47)
Interview : Wesley Enoch Enoch's Farewell to Charms; Rewriting Theatrical History Elissa Blake , 2014 single work interview
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 11 January 2014; (p. 4) The Canberra Times , 11 January 2014; (p. 20) The Age , 11 January 2014; (p. 20)
Stages of War Rosemary Neill , 2014 single work column
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian , 11-12 January 2014; (p. 4-6)
Overdue Recognition of Indigenous Diggers Andrew Taylor , 2014 single work column
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 17 January 2014; (p. 2)
Last amended 4 Oct 2017 12:52:10