(Jason Blake’s article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, 1/19)
In France and Belgium, spring is the time of the “Iron Harvest”. Heaved up by the peristaltic action of freeze and thaw, hundreds of tonnes of shrapnel, bullets, wire and unexploded ordnance come to the surface every year. On the former battlefields of the Western Front, there is no easy way to forget the events of World War I.
Half a world away, we have to make a more conscious effort to remember and Black Diggers is part of that ongoing process, designed, in this case, to bring to light the role of the hundreds of Indigenous soldiers who fought and died for King, Empire and a newly-minted Australia that did not even class them as citizens.
Drawing on documentary and verbatim sources held at the Australian War Memorial, Tom Wright's script is a series of short vignettes organised into thematic strands. We observe events from the standpoints of several characters. There is humour and satire. Scenes of sudden action and high drama are interspersed with songs, hymns and “Dear mum” readings from personal correspondence.
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