The MackThe Mack, by Sam Watson, begins with a tragedy – a drunken night, and a devastating accident, which leaves Jaxson Mack dead, his wife Birdie struggling to cope, and his brother Peacey crippled and impotent. The action that follows takes the family forward five years. The mundane reality of inner city Brisbane bleeds through into a world of greater mysteries, malign spirits, and the surveillance of the Moogi Man, all serving as tangible manifestations of Birdie’s inability to come to terms with the accident, and to care for her son Corowa. With old Bullocky Mack and his wife to head back home, the wheelchair-bound Peacey is left to look after the family, pushed by his wife Rone to do what is right – take the warrior’s role, as she puts it. Crisis point comes when Corowa tries to take the blame for the word ‘murder’ Birdie has painted on the local police station wall, imagining the local sergeant to be the malevolent spirit that haunts her. Peacey is forced to find the courage to return to the sacred land they should never have trodden on the night of the accident, returning the stone Birdie stole from the Moogi Man’s cave, returning Birdie’s focus to the real work where her son faces a detention centre, and in the process becoming the ‘main Mack’, the leader of his family.

The Mack, Sam Watson’s first foray into writing for the theatre, is positioned by him as a story of Aboriginal culture, as well as the path one man must tread to become a social and spiritual leader. Director Ian Brown also conceives it as a political piece, a play “about struggle and survival” as he puts it in the program, which ultimately finds a very poignant, positive ending to a recognisable tale.

The Mack as a picture of the life and politics of the Aboriginal people today, combines naturalistic portrayal of family with comic relief from the Tourette’s Syndrome suffering Goorie’s tendency to speak his mind, and the rich, resonant visual representation of the spiritual world which sits in parallel with the families inner Brisbane lives. While it was at times difficult to delineate transitions and relationships in the earlier naturalistic scenes, the comic relief at tenser moments was well-received by the opening night audience, and the sound-and-movement images of the spiritual world toward the end were dense and eery, and were probably the most compelling layer of The Mack for me. Sam Conway as Peacey gave solid, grounded focus to the work, Rhonda Purcell as Birdie was energised and engaging, and while Simon Hapea took time to take the power of the Moogi Man character, his performance as the comic Goorie proved a favourite with the audience. With the rest of the cast, they helped bring that audience into the sense of community and shared story Watson has set out to create with The Mack.

Kooemba Jdarra Indigenous Performing Arts presents
The Mack
by Sam Watson

Venue: Performance Space | Judith Wright Centre
Dates: Wed 14 - Sat 31 Mar
Times: Tue - Sat @ 7.30pm; Matinees: Sat 17, 24 & 31 Mar @ 2.00pm
Tickets: Full Price Web $24.50, Phone & Door $26.50; Conc. Web $19.50, Phone & door $21.50
Bookings: Monday to Friday 12 noon - 4pm. 07 3872 9000 or

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