Have you seen The Cake Man?
Robert Merritt was brought up on the Erambie Aboriginal Mission in Cowra. Merritt wrote The Cake Man, a play set in the story of his childhood, whilst in isolation in Bathurst and it was first performed in 1975 at the newly-formed Black Theatre in Redfern. Merritt watched his first opening night under police guard as an inmate of Long Bay Prision. The success of The Cake Man signified a shift in Merritt’s life, as he went on to make a number of documentary films, was Chair of the Aboriginal Arts Board, the first Aboriginal member of the Australia Council and Chair of the Festival of Pacific Arts in 1988.
The Cake Man, described as a droll examination of white paternalism from a black point of view, became the first play by an Aboriginal writer to enter the repertoire of the white theatre and kicked off a renaissance of art and performance that laid the foundations of contemporary Aboriginal theatre. Merrit’s legacy is now back on the stage for a new generation of audiences, in a co-production by Perth company Yirra Yaakin and Sydney’s Belvoir.
The Cake Man is on at Belvoir from 14 November to 8 Decmeber.
Watch Director Kyle Morrison talk about the revival of The Cake Man and why it was important to bring the work back to our stages here.
Image by Gary Heery.