In February 2008 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd publicly apologised to the Stolen Generations of Indigenous Australian’s. Eight years later on National Sorry Day, May 27th, Hart, a new play from She Said Theatre, celebrated it’s second night of a new season at Perth’s Blue Room Theatre.
Hart, written by Ian Michael and Seanna van Helten, is drawn from testimonies and interviews with members of the Stolen Generation. The work provides a timely reminder that despite that apology, the Stolen Generation is not simply a thing of the past, another dark moment in the history of Australia, rather that for those families and individuals who were taken from their homes and families are still living with the aftershocks of those policies.
You’d be forgiven that thinking that Hart would be heavy going and difficult viewing, and sure enough a play about the Stolen Generation is not always cheeriest way to spend an hour, images of Indigenous australians in chains and a litany of chilling vox pops for politicians ensured that. Yet it is perhaps necessary viewing. Michael and his team have presented these interviews and testimonials in a way, that don’t seem didactic or “preachy”. Rather they highlight the complexity of the situation; but also highlight some of the more joyful moments in these individuals’ lives – whether it be making it onto a televised ad with GWN’s Doopa Dog or playing footy. Michael, van Helten and the interviewees have revealed the human face and voice behind an issue that is too often talked about only in terms of statistics.
Michael proved to a charismatic host, leading the audience through the stories of four Indigenous men (his included), each from different generations, stretching back to 1930. There were similarities despite the shifts in time and naturally differences, but one of the constants that struck me most powerfully, was the isolation these generations had to endure. These men were removed from their traditions and their culture, unable to return to that world because of it, but also equally unwelcome in the world of “white” Australia. An “isolation” that was neatly emphasised by Michael’s anecdote about auditioning for acting roles – too light skinned for indigenous roles, too indigenous for other roles.
Hart doesn’t provide the answers, rather it is an acknowledgement that to move forward that we must move forward as one community; and that past wrongs need to be recognised, reconciled and not denied. Hart, despite it’s heavy subject matter, proved to be a moving and at times uplifting work. It was both edifying and entertaining and certainly well worth a watch.
Hart is performing at The Blue Room Theatre in Perth until June 11th. For more information and to purchase tickets visit HERE
The reviewer attended the performance on Friday 27th May.