Review: City of Gold, Wharf 1 Theatre, Sydney Theatre Company, Walsh Bay – Thursday, 19 May, 2022. Reviewed by associate editor and special writer John Moyle.
Two worlds collide in the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Meyne Wyatt’s City of Gold, which takes the audience on a journey of racial disparity and societal neglect while examining the bonds that hold a family together: no matter how tenuously.
Wyatt, as writer and the central character, has wisely left the direction of this play to Shari Sebbens, allowing him to concentrate on his role as the actor Breythe Black, who, after a successful career path, has landed a role as a lap-lap wearing Aboriginal promoting a “prestigious lamb ad”.
After answering a call from his brother Mateo to come home as his father has died, he walks from the production and returns to Kalgoorlie and his family.
This is where the script and Wyatt’s role takes off as he is confronted by guilt about not being present when his father died, the alienation of being away from his culture for so long, plus the pressures applied by the family to share his relative wealth on booze and cigarettes.
Rapid-fire dialogue gives little time for reflection as the family members shift blame and find resolution before new conflicts appear.
The play takes place in the single set of an imaginatively designed house, which becomes another, often dark character that allows the actors to transition time and reposition as they move through and exit from their interior lives.
Nothing is off the table as they navigate the funeral of their departed father, who appears and disappears as the various family members reflect on their intertwined relationships that lay the family and their interactions with broader society bare.
The highlight is Wyatt’s monologue at the beginning of act two, which is an extended version of the monologue Wyatt stunned a Q+A audience with in 2020.
This is also where Wyatt’s writing and performance focuses, as he examines the future of Aboriginal Australians still being regarded as second-class citizens, citing police brutality and deaths in custody – issues that have impacted on his own family.
The figure of 500 deaths in custody with no convictions is shocking and brings Indigenous people closer to the harsh realities of the #BlackLivesMatter movement worldwide, with still no solution in sight.
In this production, Wyatt is supported by a cast that is sometimes unable to match his intensity but Ian Michael as the partially deaf character Cliffhanger is a standout.
The ending comes with an impact that equals any season closer on Netflix’s series Ozark.
That Wyatt is something special to watch is evident through this production, along with his ever growing list of film and television credits and awards.
John Moyle is the associate editor and special writer for the Sydney Sentinel.
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