More than a cricket yarn

Aaron McGrath plays Johnny Mullagh in Black Cockatoo. (Christan Trinder) 267073_01

Ash Bolt

Following the success of Australia’s 2021-22 Ashes series campaign, Geelong Arts Centre is kicking off its 2022 season program with a cricket focus, presenting March with Ensemble Theatre’s Black Cockatoo.

Inspired by the true story of legendary First Nations cricketer, Johnny Mullagh, and Australia’s first ever international sporting team, Black Cockatoo is a story of strength, resilience, hope and possibility.

Running from Tuesday, March 22 to Saturday, March 26 in Geelong Arts Centre’s Studio 4, Black Cockatoo is a new artistic collaboration between iconic Australian writer Geoffrey Atherden (Mother and Son, Babakiueria) and former Sydney Festival Artistic director Wesley Enoch (Black Diggers).

Each performance runs for 90 minutes, with the performance held at 7.30pm on Friday, March 25 also including a post-show question and answer session with members of the show’s cast and creative team.

“We are thrilled to be opening Our Season 2022 with Black Cockatoo,” Geelong Arts Centre senior producer Penny McCabe said.

“It is incredibly important to Geelong Arts Centre that we support Australian stories that need to be told, and what could be more fitting than a Victorian story inspired by legendary First Nations cricketer Johnny Mullagh?”

Ms McCabe said Black Cockatoo was more than just a cricket story.

Over 150 years ago, 13 Aboriginal men in Western Victoria picked up their cricket bats and embarked on a treacherous voyage to England and into the unknown – all in the name of sport.

Risking illness and persecution, Australia’s first international cricket team, including Australia’s first Indigenous sporting hero Johnny Mullagh, amazed the English crowds with astonishing talent, personality and grit.

They should have returned to Australia as celebrated heroes. Instead, they came back to find the world they once knew was no longer there.

The show is part of Geelong Arts Centre’s Our Season 2022 which features 11 stories showcasing the voices of those who have overcome hardship, broken down barriers and fought for their place upon the world stage.