The Secret River

Adapting The Secret River for the Stage - Perspectives and Context 12th Grade

The 16th – 20th centuries represented an era marked by European colonialism. This included the forcible occupation of foreign lands and the control of these lands through various mechanisms of power. In Australia, this expansion involved the deliberate separation of the colonialists form the natives due to their belief of ‘European superiority’. Mirroring our infamous past, Andrew Bovell’s stage adaptation of The Secret River tells the story of two families; one settler, one Indigenous, and explores the binary opposition that exists between the two. Interestingly, the play shows that at one point in Australian history a harmonious relationship between these cultures was possible. However, the text reinforces the fundamental notion that differing perspectives, shaped by an individual’s historical and social context, have prevented a peaceful coexistence, resulting in a history marked by a sense of tragedy and despair.

During the 18th -19th centuries a social hierarchy was prevalent in British society. Influenced by this contextual factor, Captain Suckling (constructed to represent the elite in society) is of the view that class is ‘pre-destined’ rather than ‘self- determined’. Upon docking at the Sydney Harbour, Suckling comes...

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