Presented by the Black Swan Theatre Company of Western Australia and Sydney Theatre Company as part of the 2022 Perth Festival, City Of Gold is written by Meyne Wyatt, a Wongutha-Yamatji man.
It is an intensely told story of a young Indigenous man called Breythe Black, played by Meyne Wyatt, who is trying to navigate the difficult path of finding a place for himself in a white world. The world of the colonisers offers him certain opportunities, then undermines them in racist remarks, in stereotyping him, in patronising attitudes towards him, and even brutal treatment at the hands of the police.
Breythe is called home urgently to Kalgoorlie when his father dies. Unresolved tensions flare up in his relationship with his brother Mateo (Mathew Black), and even with his sanguine sister Carina (Simone Detourbet).
In this semi-autobiographical play, Wyatt brings the black and white worlds into collision in the life of Meyne by showing the impossible positions he is landed in – for example, in the advertising segments he is asked to perform where the depiction of the Aboriginal man is cliched, demeaning and cruel. Adding to the tension is his cousin “Cliffhanger”, who is deaf, and has seizures which require special medication.
Shari Sebbens, who played Carina in the 2019 premiere season, has taken on the role of director and brings out the pain, anger and humour of the dialogue.
At the beginning of the second act, Breythe’s rage reaches boiling point as he stands on the roof of the family home and rails against white society for the lot he has been dealt by it. This invective reminded me of Bob Maza’s speech in 1972 in the National Black Theatre’s first production called Basically Black. Maza was shouting his rage a few inches from my face in the tiny performance area of the newly established Nimrod Theatre in Kings Cross and I just wanted to slink away from the sudden painful awareness that I had benefitted from the “invasion” of Australia.
When his deaf cousin is manhandled by the police on the street, Breythe intervenes and this precipitates an explosive ending that leaves us in shock.
Set Designer Tyler Hill and Lighting Designer Verity Hampson have together done a terrific job of creating a typical old rural house and illuminating its interior.
Raising important issues in dialogue that is both dramatic and comical, City Of Gold will no doubt become a regular work on the festival circuit.