Solid. A Black N'2 production for Yirra Yaakin Noongar Theatre by Ningali Lawford, Kelton Pell, Phil Thomson. Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre, October 30 - November 3, 2001, 8pm.
"How would you like your tea? Black n'2 like you and me." At this point, the end of Solid, Graham settles down to learn his Noongar language from his Nan in Busselton, south of Perth. In Perth he had been "lost in life", facing loss of country, culture and language with no hope, no apparent way forward. Like refugees everywhere he tried to escape - north - with no clear destination. How could he face his Nan when he had not prevented his heroin-using brother from killing himself; when he was himself using alcohol and speed; when he could not care for wife and children; when no-one would employ him?
Meet Carol from Wankatjunka community in the Kimberley, destined for a traditional arranged marriage. She escaped south to Perth, got herself an education and a job. In the Aboriginal support agency, usually she's the only one actually at work - and it's her reports and submissions that get the funding: for other people's projects, of course, but at least it's a real job. She must go back, though, for her grandfather's funeral, and face the possibility of punishment for not fulfilling her marriage commitment.
Carol faces up to her traditional responsibility, and becomes the model for Graham to face his Nan in a play which reveals the truth about the cultures of the real Kimberley woman, Ningali Lawford, and the real Noongar man, Kelton Pell, two people as different culturally as the English and the French. After all you wouldn't catch an Englishman eating snails, would you?
With Graham, we can learn to see the emu in the dark spaces between the stars in the Milky Way, which bright lights and pollution had hidden from Noongar memory. With whimsy, humour and an ability to capture emotional tension in the turn of a word, Lawford and Pell show us human complexity, and human possibilities, as understandable in Wankatjunka as in Noongar country, in Canberra, or anywhere. This play is about country - our country - seen from the inside. All Australians will savour this cup of tea.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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