Bennelong (2017)

Bringing the stories to the stage: the creative process


There is a great deal of primary source material available about Bennelong – mostly within preserved notebooks of First Fleet officers, personal letters found in collections and various published articles dating from the 1790s. (See Links and further reading section of this resource).

There are also a number of images of Bennelong in existence, created by artists of the time, including James Neagle, Joseph Lysett and the infamous Port Jackson painter (who it is speculated was actually more than one painter). 

Eleanor Dark’s 1949 classic work of historical fiction, The Timeless Land was applauded by historians as being one of the earliest pieces of writing that brought the Indigenous voice into the history of Australian colonisation. This book was written when the White Australia policy was still in force, nearly two decades before Aboriginal people were included as citizens in the national census (referendum 1967) and W.E.H Stanner’s Boyer seminal lecture The Great Australian Silence (1968) was presented and published. The Timeless Land gave voice to an Aboriginal perspective that was virtually silent in the mid twentieth century, was regarded as being instrumental in disrupting the conversation of Australia’s colonisation history. 

During the making of Bennelong, numerous other resources were explored as well as images from collections held at the National Library of Australia, the State Library of NSW and the National History Museum in London.  

Bangarra commissioned writer, director and dramaturg Alana Valentine to work closely with the creative team, exploring historical material and other relevant artistic expressions that centred around Bennelong and the elements of his story that became more fascinating as the progressed. The team looked at poetry, songs, images and official documentation. As all the material was woven through the creative process, a distillation of the Bangarra’s telling took hold, and the result is the production, Bennelong