A love story unfolds during atrocious times, Dylan Van Der Berg’s Whitefella Yella Tree is nothing short of top tier story-telling and exquisite Queer theatre.
Neddy and Ty have been tasked with importance – an important job to prove their maturity, their courage, and their place within the tribe. A task they are taking very seriously, that is until an undeniable curiosity evolves between them. Soon young attraction blooms into deep love – celebrated, joyous love that is unashamed as it is naïve.
Van Den Berg’s writing is utterly faultless, weaving a deeply rich and emotive story with wry and cheeky dialogue. Van Den Berg focuses intently on Neddy and Ty’s story – their world, their way of speaking and understanding and it is through their eyes that the audience connects to the impacts of their rapidly changing world.
Callan Purcell and Mathew Cooper (masterfully taking on the role script in hand due to cast injury) breath life and love into Ty and Neddy respectively – bringing the cringe, the possibility, the certainty and the romance that comes with first love.
Both actors navigate the character’s differences and sameness with such grace and respect, protectively allowing audiences to see under the veil of their world and their love.
Declan Greene and Amy Sole share directing duties, crafting a work that meticulously detailed and measured but still leaves room for play and nuance. Both directors maintain a freshness as the work unfolds, working with the scripts often limiting scene structures to create an expansive and shifting time and place for the characters to inhabit and grow within.
Rather than leaning into a linear narrative, Greene and Sole simply open a door to the world, a door leading to any time or moment in these character’s lives, with audiences left to reflect on the unseen.
Mason Browne, Steve Toulmin, Kelsey Lee and Katie Sfetkidis’ designs sit parallel to the performers in enriching the text. Powerful shifts in light and sound punctuate not just the romance but the horror unfolding, immersing Neddy and Ty in surroundings that are just theirs, their own space.
An integration of contemporary and naturalistic styles reminds the audience that though there is a historical setting to this story, the people and culture at the work’s heart can no longer be relocated to the history books.
Whitefella Yella Tree is deserving off and should be given repeated seasons on stages around the country and beyond. It is truly a work that is the pinnacle of not just new Australian theatre nor Queer theatre, but is a work continues to bring voices and stories of absolute importance to the stage.
With Sydney primed and ready to welcome visitors to WorldPride 2023, we can only hope that this production is given not just pride of place in the festival but the respect to educate worldwide audiences on the culture and stories of the world’s oldest continuous living culture.
Whitefella Yella Tree
SBW Stables Theatre, 10 Nimrod Ave, Kings Cross (Sydney)
Performance: Friday 17 September 2022
Season continues to 23 September 2022
Information and Bookings: www.griffintheatre.com.au
Image: Whitefella Yella Tree – photo by Brett Boardman
Review: Gavin Roach