Tag Archives: Neil Armfield


LION, based on the autobiographical book, A LONG WAY HOME by Saroo Brierley and Larry Buttrose, tells the story of how Saroo, adopted by a loving couple in Tasmania, with the help of Google, searches for and finds his birth mother.

Nicole Kidman hugs Sue Brierley

Nicole Kidman stars as his adoptive mother Sue Brierley and David Wenham plays his adoptive father John. Dev Patel stars as Saroo.

The film’s Sydney premiere took place on the 19th December at the State Theatre saw the real life Brierley’s join their celebrity counterparts on the red carpet.

The director Garth Davis, the writer Luke Davies, the producers and all the major stars attended with the exception of Rooney Mara stayed after the screening to participate in a Q and A.


Ray Gordon, Trevor Jamieson and Nathaniel Dean. Pic Heidrun Lohr

Seventeenth Century English poet Alexander Pope wisely wrote, ‘Know then thyself/ presume not God to scan/ the proper study of Mankind is Man’.

Great theatre makes for powerful studies of mankind. They explore how people tackle some of the most difficult and challenging predicaments that life can deliver.

As we sit in the audience, watching the action unfold on stage, we can ask ourselves frankly how would we cope with this situation?! What kind of journey, would this take us on?! How much would it test our mettle?

William Thornhill is a very average Joe. His story is he is an illiterate Thames bargeman who has been convicted of a felony and has been transported as a convict to Sydney Australia. The time period is 1806. His wife Sal and his two young kids come with him.

Once in Sydney, he is given a pardon by Governor Lachlan Macquarie and the authorities gives him 100 acres of prime riverfront acreage on the Hawkesbury, part of the new frontier for European settlers. It has the potential to make him very rich

What the authorities fail to tell him is that the land they gave him is Dharug land, an indigenous tribe who have lived there for thousands of years. They call the land, Dhirrumbin. The Thornhill family and the Dharug people soon come across each other, and it is like people from two different planets trying to communicate.

Thornhill has never met an indigenous person in his life. He sees them as just savages and wants them to bugger off, but they aren’t going anywhere. Thornhill is faced with the predicament, if they won’t bugger off peacefully then he will have to fight them. The Dharug people, too, are very uneasy with the new arrivals. They start a smoking ceremony.

What do William Thornhill and the Dharug people end up doing? What would I do? What would you do?

Go see for yourself the choices that are made and the journeys that are gone through. It will be one of the best two hours plus theatre you will see in your lives.

Andrew Bovell has deftly adapted Kate Grenville’s novel to the stage. Neil Armfield is a genius director and has a great cast to work with.

They are led by Nathaniel Dean, who gives a wonderful performance as William Thorhill, Anita Hegh as his homesick wife Sal, Ursula Yovich as Dhirrumbin and Trevor Jamieson as Ngalamalum. On stage musician Iain Grandage provides eloquent accompaniment.

THE SECRET RIVER is a production by the Sydney Theatre Company in association with the Sydney Festival, the Centennary of Canberra and the Perth International Arts Festival.

THE SECRET RIVER opened as part of the Sydney Festival on Wednesday 8th January and runs until Saturday 9th February at the Sydney Theatre, 22 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay. The production will then tour to Canberra and Perth.

© David Kary

20th January, 2012

Tags: Sydney Stage Reviews- THE SECRET RIVER, Kate Grenville, Neil Armfield, Andrew Bovell, Nathaniel Dean, Anita Hegh, Bruce Spence, Ursula Yovich, Jeremy Sims, Trevor Jamieson, Jeremy Sims, Ursula Yovich, Miranda Tapsell, Ian Grandage, Neil Armfield, Stephen Curtis, Tess Schofield, Sydney Festival, The Centennary Of Canberra, Perth International Arts Festival, Heidren Lohr, Sydney Arts Guide, David Kary