Criminal tales from an old culture come to London

Criminal-turned-potter-and-actor koori Jack Charles, of Melbourne, at the Barbican, London, with rebel ancestors in background 110214 © david.altheer

LONDONERS don’t often get the chance to learn personally about the world’s most continuous culture. But next month February 2014 that opportunity arises when an Australian theatre group comes to the Barbican just south of Hackney.

The star of the Ilbijerri Theatre Company is Jack Charles, a Koori from the state of Victoria who describes himself as an Australian legend. The actor-musician-activist has also been for many of his 70-plus years a thief with a drug habit that made him a regular in Victoria’s prisons.

He describes his show, Jack Charles v The Crown, as a kind of vagabond’s progress – from the “traps of dispossession to the age of white-haired wisdom”.

Koori (aboriginal) rock painting "Bunjil's shelter", near Stawell Victoria Australia 01113 © david.altheer@gmail.com
Koori rock painting in Victoria, c 4000BC

Along the way, Charles discusses the Stolen Generation, one of the many horrors inflicted on Aboriginal families by European incomers. But don’t be put off: he lightens the evening with humour, and his charming personality make the show enjoyable as well as instructive. Remarkably, he evinces little rancour about the attempts of the white majority to separate him from his culture.

Hamish Scott 010114

* Jack Charles v The Crown, The Pit, Barbican, Silk Street EC2Y 8DS, Tues 11-Sat 15 Feb 2014, tickets £18. Disabled access.

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