Celebrated English travel writer Miss Gertrude Harnett has arrived in Kooreelba. Mayoral candidate Mr Watson, determined to offer Ms Harnett an ‘authentic’ Aboriginal experience sets out to organise a corroboree, with all money raised to go towards a new children’s playground. The proposed playground site however, is the site of Koorelba’s indigenous settlement and home to, amongst others, Vic and Peggy Filmer. Will the Aboriginal population be forced to move? Or can a compromise be reached?
In Fountains Beyond, Dann highlights the complexity of the relationship between Indigenous and white Australians, explores the politics and practicalities of dispossession, and challenges the idea of Indigenous homogeneity. He demands that audiences consider the assumptions behind and ethics of “Aboriginal welfare” and Assimilation policies.
In our current world of Black Lives Matter and neoNazi marches, Fountains Beyond is a swift reminder of how deeply these issues are rooted, and how far we still have to go.
It is said dead men tell no tales. However dead white men still influence the world we occupy. This cuts both ways.
The name “George Landen Dann” is esoterically lauded, and this fact is reason enough for a republication of one of Australia’s most valuable (and least known) playwrights.
Fountains Beyond is a case study for Australian political theatre. The central issue of an Aboriginal community being dispossessed of their land relates to identity politics on a personal and national scale. This discussion of racial issues is not just relevant in 2017, it is mirrored in our headlines: what is the distinction between progress and destruction?
“The play crystallises personal attitudes, cultural contexts and historical perspectives of a certain era of Australian history and theatrical development. It raises questions about the notion of belonging, for the characters and cultural groups within the play, but also for the play itself and this playwright. … Now is the time for Fountains Beyond to be re-evaluated anew and its place, as belonging within the Australian theatrical canon, to be secured,” Susan Davis.
The New Theatre League, in conjunction with The Playwrights’ Advisory board, first produced Fountains Beyond in 1942. It premiered in Sydney on January 28 and was subsequently produced by numerous theatre companies across Australia. Small productions were also staged in London and in Wales. The text has also been adapted on numerous occasions; the play has been revised for radio; Dann himself re-wrote Fountains Beyond as a musical (with Gerry Cole); and in 2000, Wesley Enoch and the Queensland Theatre Company reframed the text as part of the Brisbane Festival.
ISBN 978 1 921390 30 2