Ensemble Theatre, January 9 ★★★

“I like the idea of a room full of white people, all looking at me, all listening to what I say,” says Johnny Mullagh. “I would say, ‘Listen to my story. Listen to my people. And listen to your hearts’.”

The real Mullagh may have thought no such thing, but the dramatised character has his wish come true, even as he says the words put in his mouth by playwright Geoffrey Atherden – words that encapsulate the sentiment at the heart of Black Cockatoo.

Aaron McGrath as Johnny Mullagh in Black Cockatoo.

Aaron McGrath as Johnny Mullagh in Black Cockatoo.Credit:Steven Siewert

Mullagh, or Unaarrimin, a Wotjobaluk man from western Victoria, was the star of an Aboriginal cricket team that in 1868 was the first Australian XI to tour England. Atherden’s play, about the broader issues of racism, oppression, reconciliation, shared history, divisive history, distorted history and the search for truth, ensures we do listen to Mullagh’s extraordinary story.

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