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Jane Harrisons Stolen at Wharf 1 Sydney Theatre Company

One by one, five young Aborigines slowly enter a huge uninviting impersonal space, each carrying a suitcase or backpack. Each has been taken from their families by the government to live in an institution. Each of the five have a different personal story arising from the same policy – to take children from their families in the belief that they will be better off away from their natural family. But loss of their mother and community haunts the five as they grow up in the group ‘home’. Each of the five long for their mother. We follow each of them from soon after they are ‘stolen’ as toddlers, to 1997 when Kevin Rudd gave the ‘Sorry Speech’.

Stolen ends with one of the five reuniting with her daughter and granddaughter after a two decade search. Another returns to the red sandy desert he remembers from his childhood. Another, who was raised ‘white’, reunites with her Aboriginal family. The others find some solace in the changes in government policy that have taken place. The play ends with a large banner spanning the stage that reads “Sorry means never to let it happen again”.

Stolen was written by Muruwari Jane Harrison in 1998. The play has had productions around Australian and overseas and is studied in high schools. Full marks to Sydney Theatre Company for this production. The director is WilmanNoongar man Ian Michael. He has pulled together a team of imaginative creatives. Renée Mulder (Designer), Trent Suidgeest (Lighting Designer) and James Brown(Composer and Sound Designer) worked together to make a huge open space become a bedroom, gaol, nursery, pub and open bushland.

The cast all identify as Aboriginal: Kartanya Maynard, Jarron Andy, Mathew Cooper, Stephanie Somerville and Megan Wilding. All have strong powerful voices and bring an emotional depth to stories that are presented as separated snippets of time – not an easy task – but accomplished.

Director Ian Michel’s program quote says it all:  There is not one First Nations person in this country who has grown up unaffected by the government policies to forcibly remove children from their families. As the child of a man who was taken in the early 70s, I feel a deep responsibility to honour the truth, pain, tenderness, humour and injustice contained within Jane Harrison’s timeless script.” 

STOLEN plays at Wharf 1 Theatre Sydney Theatre Company until July 6

Tickets via (02) 9250 1777 /



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