By Tara Ramsay
City of Gold debuted at Queensland Theatre and I was lucky enough to go along and witness this current, raw and unflinching play written by and starring, Meyne Watts. The story as Queensland Theatre states in the program is ‘A battle cry from the front line of Australian Identity.’ The plot follows Breythe (Meyne Wyatt) trying to cut through the fickle entertainment industry to follow his dreams of being an actor, not just typecast as an ‘Indigenous actor’, to then having to put them dreams on hold to head home to Kalgoorlie – the City Of Gold, where grief and conflict await.
It opens with Breythe ‘on the job’ on a new (extremely racist) commercial for Aussie Lamb, it starts off dark and still with Breythe holding a spear and canoe, moving slowly towards the audience. It’s not known that it is a commercial until a cell phone starts ringing and breaks the scene and then all of a sudden it is lights up and the hustle and bustle of a film set ensues; a pushy PA, makeup on hand ,a self-absorbed director trying to schmooze Breythe with praise even when questioned about some of the commercial being a little wrong and very racist. The phone keeps ringing and after a visit from a mesmerising messenger bird (Maitland Schnaars), Breythe quits and heads back to his home town.
Back in the City Of Gold is where we are thrust into a world of injustice, family conflict, grief and Breythe trying to find his place in the world. This play is certainly not what you would call uplifting, but it’s here, in the show's rawness, that the hard questions are asked - important questions about right and wrong and which side of racism you have been on in times you just couldn't see it.
Meyne Wyatt wrote from a place of experience, and it hits you hard. He has a wonderful, courageous energy on stage that oozed out of his character Brethye. His monologue that opens the second act, directed towards the audience is where you really see him flex his acting chops and whilst I felt this monologue was a little dragged out there is no denying the powerful message behind it.
I can also not speak highly enough about the supporting cast, with most playing multiple characters. Christopher Stollery and Anthony Standish balanced all of their characters with perfection and there was no denying the transition between them all. Cliffhanger (Jeremy Ambrum), was cheeky and not only had some of the plays most humorous moments, but the hardest too – delivering both with exceptional conviction. Mateo (Mathew Cooper) was a volatile character that Mathew captured so well it only accentuated his, although few, softer moments, creating a very real character. Maitland Schnaars was mesmerising as the messenger bird and as Breythe’s Dad, he was hard but patient and even in his weakest moments his strength lingered. Carina (Shari Sebbens) was the glue that held the family together, a steadfast matriarch that you couldn’t help but love.
Director Isaac Drandic handled this complex play with empathy which added to the strength of this compelling and unyielding play. The choreography of entrances and exits off stage didn’t go unnoticed and I enjoyed the ebb and flow of it. When all of the production elements came together you really did get a feel of The City Of Gold, the set - deigned by Simona Cosentini and Simone Tesorieri , was simple but effective, the corrugated tin roof atop the off white home with a hint of red dust to signify the location was perfection and when the rain came down on that tin roof, and the lights faded to blue every inch of me was there.
In Isaac Drandic director’s note he states that ‘Listening is a powerful act’ especially when non-Indigenous people ask what part they can play in helping improve the situation for Indigenous people.' I listened and felt every word of this important, current and powerful play. There is so much to be done and Meyne Wyatt lends his voice to the Indigenous people of our country and brings many injustices to light. Racism is very much alive and well and something needs to be done. This young actor and writer has an extremely bright future.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.