Ilbijerri Theatre Company's Which Way Home

ON THE ROAD: Kamahi Djordon King and Katie Beckett as father and daughter in Which Way Home, which will be performed at Civic Playhouse.
ON THE ROAD: Kamahi Djordon King and Katie Beckett as father and daughter in Which Way Home, which will be performed at Civic Playhouse.

INDIGENOUS actor and playwright Katie Beckett was raised by her father from age five when her mother and an aunt were killed in a car accident.

As she grew older she became increasingly concerned that Indigenous fathers were often regarded as being drunk, neglectful and dismissive of their young children.

Katie’s father had given her, and her two older sisters, loving care as they grew into adulthood. So she decided to write a play, Which Way Home, which shows an Indigenous woman taking her aged father by car 700 kilometres from suburban Ipswich in southern Queensland to the rural property where he grew up near Lightning Ridge in NSW. As they travel, the pair discuss past events, argue and joke.

Which Way Home, which premiered in Melbourne in 2016, wowed audiences there and at the Sydney Festival in 2017. It is on a three-month regional tour, which includes two performances at Newcastle’s Civic Playhouse on Saturday, July 21. 

Katie Beckett, who has played the daughter, Tash, in all the shows, is joined by Kamahi Djordon King as Dad. The production has been staged by Indigenous group Ilbijerri Theatre Company, with its original director, Rachel Maza.

The production has the two actors sitting on boxes as they travel, with the boxes becoming very different objects as their memories bring flashbacks to things that have happened in their lives. And the actors occasionally join in singing country and blues songs that they have always enjoyed.

Katie Beckett has described the play as a love letter to her father. Now aged 70, he has experienced six heart attacks over the years but still is very caring of his three daughters and their families. And, while the characters are Indigenous, their behaviour is typical of all Australians.

Dad, for example, who is on a strict diet for health reasons, keeps trying to take biscuits from a hidden packet without Tash catching him.

The Civic Playhouse July 21 shows are at 2pm and 8pm Tickets: $25 to $38. Bookings: 4929 1977.

The Civic Playhouse is also hosting on Saturday, July 28, at 2pm, an acted reading of a play in development, Gurri Thurr-aye, by Indigenous Hunter playwright Ray Kelly, of Ngarrama Productions. Kelly wrote the first Indigenous play, Somewhere in the Darkness, to be staged by Sydney Theatre Company.

The play, which looks at an Indigenous grandfather’s memories of life in the bush, includes traditional songs. The reading is being directed by director, Brian Joyce, who has worked with Ray Kelly on his previous plays.

Tickets: $8. Audience members are invited to comment on the play at the end of the reading.

GIGGLE FEST

NEWCASTLE comedy fans are in for a good time in coming weeks with shows including two Newcastle-born comedians who have won fans overseas as well as in Australia.

Rowan Thambar presents his show “23” at CBD venue the Royal Exchange on Friday and Saturday, July 20 and 21, at 8pm. It blends musical comedy and stand-up as the 23-year-old, who has performed in the United States as well as throughout Australia, tries to work out who he wants to be. Thambar was nominated for best comedy at the 2017 Melbourne Fringe Festival and was selected to be a member of the Comedy Zone at this year’s Melbourne Comedy Fest. Tickets, $15, can be booked through trybooking.com.

Another Novocastrian, Sarah Gaul, who has returned from a year of performing in New York, delivers Homecoming at the Royal Exchange on Friday and Saturday, July 27 and 28, at 7.30pm. Gaul, who won raves in New York, with theatre website Broadway World calling her “outrageously funny”, also brings together singing and comedy. The Newcastle show is a fundraiser for local women’s refuge Jenny’s Place. Gaul warns that her show could have watchers ugly-laughing and crying. Tickets, $15, $10 earlybird, are available from Eventbrite.

Comedian Ivan Butterfield’s touring show Bad for Your Health has sold out its Thursday, July 19, show at Lizotte’s, Lambton, so a second show will be staged on Thursday, August 9. Tickets, $35, 4956 2066 or lizottes.com.au. 

Butterfield delivers jokes which, he admits, could see him fired from an ordinary job.