It’s a long way from the wide streets and big old houses of Tash’s childhood. Two Black faces in a very white suburb. Dad still thinks he’s the king of cool, but he’s an old fella now. It’s time for Tash to take him home.
Laura Morelli

26 Aug 2016 - 4:28 PM  UPDATED 26 Aug 2016 - 4:31 PM

Murrawarri woman, Katie Beckett, was born in Sydney’s western suburbs but moved to Yuggerah country in Ipswich, where her grandfather and her father are both from.

Men have played a huge role in Katie’s life. In fact, one man in particular, her father, was the sole inspiration for the ILBIJERRI Theatre Company’s brand new production, ‘Which Way Home.’

“My mum died when I was five years old, so my dad has played a huge part of my life. He is an amazingly strong man. Not only did my dad lose my mum, but his mother and his sister in the space of a month, it was hard for him to deal with, but he managed to raise us kids.

Katie says she’s grown up with influential figures and wants to really portray that.

“I got sick of seeing how our men are being seen in the media and by the public… I grew up with strong black men and women and that's what I wanted to show.”

In this heartwarming dramedy of an aboriginal girl, her much loved ageing dad and their road trip to his birthplace, Katie says that the significance to return home to country, where the sky is higher and the world goes on forever is vital.

“Returning home to country means friends, family, a sense of belonging a connection that is unlike any other place, in order to give the sense of strength and revitalisation.”

During the journey from Yuggerah country Ipswich to Muriwarri Country Goodooga, the two learn new things about each other and about life. They experience moments of hilarity and annoyance as the trivial become exaggerated within the four doors of a car.

“The reason I wrote ‘Which Way Home’ was because I love my dad. That’s it. It’s truly that simple. I’m daddy’s baby pie. (He still calls me that by the way and I’m 32 years old).”

“It wasn’t an easy time but he did it. He is a loving, wonderful, strong man. I have had a lot of wonderfully strong and emotionally in tune, generous men around me growing up and I was wondering why I don’t see the Aboriginal men that I grew up with represented on stage, on TV, on film,” said Beckett.

Directed by Rachael Maza, actor and writer Katie Beckett – also seen in ‘Redfern Now’ plays Tash and her Dad is played by Tony Briggs who also starred in ‘Cleverman’.

Katie says writing and acting in the same show based upon her own memories was a deadly experience.

“It's a very different and surreal experience… It was hard for me to separate the two, but having an amazing team and the most deadliest director that I trust greatly with my story made the whole process easy.

Theatre has always been a part of the world Rachel grew up in. Her father, the late Bob Maza, was involved in the establishment of the first Black Theatre Company ‘Nindethana' in 1971 with her Uncle Jack Charles.

“There wasn’t an occasion I can think of when the guitar wasn’t out and everyone was singing and laughing so it was inevitable that I would follow this path,” she said.

Rachel says the idea of returning to country is really significant, especially

“For Indigenous people’s there’s a great importance to belong to your country, the country of your ‘mob’. Australia historically saw the forced removal of people from their country, but despite this people never lost this connection, this knowing where you come from. It may be knowledge that needed to be re-learnt but it was and is always there,” she said.

“Going back to country is about reconnecting with your ‘home,’- the place you belong, where your stories come from, where you spirit goes to rest. This relationship between a person and their country is interconnected and cannot be broken.

Rachel wants audiences to come out the other side inspired and uplifted.

“I want them to share in the humanity of this story - become an advocate in slowly breaking down the stereotypes and insidious distempering of Indigenous men. For our audiences to feel they the authority and confidence to make a stand when discerning the difference between racism and a joke.”

Which Way Home kicks off on 24 August - 3 September in Victoria's Northcote Town Hall.

About ILBIJERRI Theatre Company

ILBIJERRI is Australia’s leading and longest running Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre Company, creating challenging and inspiring theatre creatively controlled by Indigenous artists. Their stories are provocative, affecting and give voice to unique and diverse cultures. Each year the company travels to national, regional and remote locations across Australia and the world.