Canberra-based writer Dylan Van Den Berg, winner of the 2021 Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting at the NSW Premiers Literary Awards, brings to the stage the uneasy personal process of reconciliation in Milk in a world premiere season at The Street Theatre from Friday 4 June 2021.
“Given the year we’ve just had, it feels particularly special to return to the theatre with such a personal story about loss and survival,” says Playwright Dylan Van Den Berg. “I hope the play inspires conversations about the responsibility we all have to contribute meaningfully to reconciliation, and to consider the gaps – or the silences – in our own pasts.”
Milk explores the uneasy personal process of reconciliation. What are the complexities of aligning yourself with Indigenous legacies of resilience when you are also related to their oppressors? Does the passage of time undermine connection to Country?
Spanning two centuries the play tracks the conversation between three Aboriginal ancestors coming together on a metaphysical Flinders Island off the coast of Tasmania on the verge of life-changing moments.
The three characters attempt to reconcile what came before the onslaught of colonisation with what is yet to come: an old woman from the 1840s; a middle-aged woman from the 1960s; and, a young writer from the present wanting to know more about his heritage and what happened to his ancestors.
Milk is a story, permissible to be told, of survival, of truth and of letting go, and of personal reconciliation. Revealing the complex history of a First Nations family, Milk opens during National Reconciliation Week, contributing to celebrations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures in the ACT.
The Street’s first live theatre performance of 2021, Milk has been in development since 2018 and progressed through The Street’s First Seen program, developing the three characters from different periods in history, and the imagery and soundscape for its island setting.
In the development of the story, Van Den Berg consulted historical documents and family stories and has worked with Aunty Gaye Doolan as a cultural advisor to the play’s development and appropriateness.
Milk stars award-winning Mandandanjii and Darambal woman Roxanne McDonald (Parramatta Girls, Mabo) and Katie Beckett (Redfern Now, Sunshine Girl, Which Way Home) with Dylan Van Den Berg, a Palawa man with family connections to the Bass Strait and the northeast of Tasmania.
The creative team include company first-timers, director Gin Savage and sound designer Peter Bailey, working with experienced designers Imogen Keen (set and costume) and Gerry Corcoran (lighting).
Milk is compelling contemporary theatre with potent storytelling paying respect to the world’s oldest living culture. Heralding the return of live theatre, The Street brings to its stage the award-winning Indigenous playwright’s first professional production, first published script and first work in his home town.
Director: Virginia Savage Featuring: Roxanne McDonald, Katie Beckett, Dylan Van Den Berg Set & Costume Design: Imogen Keen Lighting Design: Gerry Corcoran Sound Design: Peter Bailey Cultural Consultant: Gaye Doolan
The Street Theatre, 15 Childers Street, Canberra City West
Season: 4 – 12 June 2021 (preview: 3 June)
Information and Bookings: www.thestreet.org.au
Image: Dylan Van Den Berg and Roxanne McDonald in rehearsal for Milk – photo by creswick collective