The Secret River, National Theatre - ★★★★★ - Until September 7, 2019.

Photographer: Ryan Buchanan

This is a dark look at Australian history, but it is also so much more. The clash of cultures between the Aboriginals and English settlers who want to "own" the land is a story that is still playing itself out today in many countries that have indigenous populations. But even in countries without this history the co-existence of different cultural realities is a central question for the 21st century. The mutual incomprehension of the two peoples is beautifully captured by the use of the Dharug language, rather than having all the characters perform in English. It is extremely evocative, as is the starkly simple set which is brilliantly used to suggest the land and river that is the central point of dispute between the two groups. Andrew Bovell has done a wonderful adaptation of Kate Grenville's complex novel for the stage and the cast do a splendid job of making all the characters both sympathetic and complex - not an easy task when your audience does not speak one of the languages used throughout the play. Pauline Whyman did a stand-out job taking over the role of Ningali Lawford-Wolf who passed away just days before this opening. This show is a wonderful tribute to her, and it encourages us to confront the history that we have inherited as we make decisions that will create the historical legacy of future generations.

Reviewed by J.C.

 Our Score:  ☆☆☆☆☆ 

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WHEN, WHERE, GETTING THERE:
Until September 7, 2019
Mon - Sat: 7 pm (Aug 29 & 30). 1 pm (Sep 4 & 7)
National Theatre
Nearest tube: Waterloo
https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/the-secret-river

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