The Cake Man


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‘No, mustn’t give him that. It would only cause him pain. They are not accustomed to cake, they are not ready for cake.’

On newly-declared terra nullius, a Priest, a Civilian and a Soldier watch an Aboriginal family. ‘Too ignorant for light, too old for change,’ remarks the Priest as he blesses the Soldier’s gun. On a New South Wales Aboriginal mission, decades later, another Aboriginal family live under the watchful eye of Social Welfare. Along with the policeman’s gun, the lives of Ruby, Sweet William and their child Pumpkinhead are dictated by the cruel pen of bureaucracy. But Pumpkinhead dreams of the Cake Man—half-Jesus, half-Aboriginal spirit—who wanders the land blind, waiting for Aboriginal children to come and save him and, in turn, save them.

This is a story told by those whom settler history has long spoken for; stretching from the violence of first encounter, to ‘civil’ captivity within the Aboriginal mission, to liberation on stage as the first professionally produced play written by an Aboriginal playwright. Robert Merritt’s The Cake Man is braided into a rich seam of storytelling that has long preceded colonial settlement and will long resist it.

This edition includes the author’s preface from the second edition, plus a foreword from that edition by Mervyn Rutherford and notes on the Wiradjuri tribe of NSW; as well as new introductions from Julian Meyrick (Australia in 50 Plays) and Wesley Enoch.

We acknowledge that we live and create on unceded lands. We pay our respects to the First Peoples of Australia, and to their elders past, present and future.

© Australian Plays Transform 2024