Faced with his fledgling colony of “New Holland” starving to death, Governor Arthur Phillip employs drastic measures that include kidnapping Aboriginal men to learn how they survive. But little does he know what he has bargained for when Phillip plucks the wily and charismatic Bennelong from the shores of "Manly Cove".
As Bennelong calls Phillip “beanna” (father), and asks to be called “doorow” (son), Bennelong embroiders Phillip into his kinship group. But when Bennelong escapes and summons Phillip to meet him at Manly Cove, Phillip is astonished to be impaled through the shoulder by a twelve-foot-long "payback" spear. While Major Ross prepares for outright war (with the “natives”), Bennelong surprises Phillip again—when he walks into town with his pregnant wife, Barangaroo, and persuades the war council that he had saved Phillip’s life rather than threatened it.
Bennelong begins his new life as the colony’s ‘ambassador’, and is charged with preventing any future spearing of the whites. Yet when Barangaroo dies from infection (along with his newborn daughter) Bennelong grows distraught and reckless. And when the colony’s “gamekeeper” (John McEntire) shoots a young Aboriginal lady (Milba), the one-eyed warrior Pemulwuy avenges her death by impaling McEntire with an agonising “death spear”. Governor Phillip grows irate, and war erupts, until Pemulwuy and his men are eventually cut down by European muskets. Haunted by the ghosts of the dead, Bennelong agrees to accompany Phillip back to London where he meets “mad” King George III at a production of Othello at the Theatre Royal.
Discovering how his people have been swindled, Bennelong rejects Phillip’s friendship and returns to his homeland, where he is returned to the earth by the burnt bone of the Kurdaitcha.
- Australian "Shakespearean" blank verse drama
- 180 minutes
- Requires 9 Indigenous actors (including 5 women), 14 "European" actors, and 1 "African" actor to play 31 characters.
- Australian Plays Transform