Coranderrk, a play by Ilbijerri, Australia’s longest running Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander theatre company, is on this year’s playlist for Drama Unit 3 students in the Victorian Certificate of Education.
First performed in August 2010 (appropriately) at Melbourne’s La Mama Courthouse, Coranderrk is a drama about an 1881 Victorian Parliamentary Enquiry where the people of Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve just outside Healesille in Melbourne’s outer north-east, fought to remain on their land. The play is a recreation of the Enquiry in the style of documentary drama, a form of theatre practice that uses historical records of real events as its foundation. Because Coranderrk also employs court transcripts as part of the dialogue in the production, it is also verbatim theatre. Coranderrk has evolved over numerous productions and tours, including minor changes and improvements.
Verbatim theatre was developed in regional Britain in the 1960s to give marginalised communities a voice … Australia is experiencing a boom in documentary and verbatim theatre (in the latter, the words of real people are reproduced on stage). From plays about forgotten Australians to docudramas dealing with political scandals and crimes, a bracingly factual theatre scene is reinforcing the stage’s role as an eagle-eyed witness to our times. In our postmodern age in which concepts such as authenticity and objectivity are routinely rubbished, documentary theatre, paradoxically, rarely has been so popular, here and abroad. (Rosemary Neill, The Weekend Australian, 9-10 January, 2010).
Coranderrk is about to tour once more. Here is a series of resources for teachers and students who are seeing the show soon as part of their VCE Drama Unit 3 curriculum. It includes media reviews of past performances and video material such as interviews with cast members and creatives, plus snippets of rehearsals and the performance itself. Use this material to aid with pre-performance preparation and/or post performance discussion. Enjoy!
Coranderrk Video Resources
Coranderrk Resource Website
The Minutes of Evidence project, chronicling the various productions of Coranderrk, performance photos, plus information on source material such as the 1881 Victorian Public Enquiry.
Coranderrk Playscript Resources
Foreward to Coranderrk by Aunt Joy Murphy Wandin, Senior Elder of the Wurundjeri people.
Introduction to Coranderrk by Maria Nugent, Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander History, Australian National University.
Coranderrk Performance Photos
See photos of Coranderrk in performance from the 2012 production (click “Photos” tab).
Radio National podcast on the premiere of Coranderrk at La Mama, Melbourne.