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Bennelong single work   drama   Indigenous story  
Is part of Eora Stories 2014 series - author musical theatre (number 4 in series)
Issue Details: First known date: 2017... 2017 Bennelong
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'Bennelong is a dance theatre production that explores the story of Woollarawarre Bennelong (Bennilong, Baneelon) (c1764-1813), a Wangul man of the Eora nation who lived in the Port Jackson area at the time of the British first settlement. Today, Bennelong is one of the most celebrated and mythologised Aboriginal individuals from the days of early settlement. His wide notoriety is remarkable - not only for the stories about his interactions and relationships with the British, but for the amount of primary source material that refers to him in notebooks and diaries of several first fleet officers, as well as Governor Arthur Phillip himself.

'Bennelong’s story has been told and re-told many times over by historians, novelists and screenwriters, and his image has been depicted by artists from early times to the present in paintings, drawings and other media. Numerous geographical locations around Australia are named in his honour. Perhaps the most well-known ‘place’ name is Bennelong Point, where the iconic Sydney Opera House stands.

'Bangarra Dance Theatre’s unique telling of Bennelong’s story is imagined through the perspective of Bennelong himself as well as other Aboriginal people of the time. The work explores his personal character, his conflicts, his relationships, his community, and his standing within that community.

'Bangarra’s production of Bennelong is not a historical recount, nor is it a literal translation of events. The work looks between the lines and layers of the narrative that has gathered around this one man, and beyond the common perceptions that have prevailed in regard to Bennelong the man and his unique place in our post-colonial history.

'We are mindful that we look back to Bennelong’s time through the filter of our contemporary consciousness - what we know now is always superimposed over what we read about First Contact times and how we imagine the reality of those times.

'We hope to ignite audiences’ imaginations and focus their thoughts on the enormous impact brought to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through European settlement.'


Teaching Resources

Teaching Resources

This work has teaching resources.

Teaching resources by Bangarra Dance Theatre.


  • Additional Awards:


    Best Costume Design (Jennifer Irwin), Helpmann Awards, 2018.


    Best Lighting Design (Nick Schlieper), Helpmann Awards, 2018.

    Best Scenic Design (Jacob Nash), Helpmann Awards, 2018.

    Best Male Dancer in a Ballet, Dance or Physical Theatre Production (Beau Dean Riley Smith), Helpmann Awards, 2018.

Production Details

  • Performed at Arts Centre Melbourne 7-16 September 2017. Presented by Canberra Theatre Centre and Bangarra Dance Theatre

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

Note: This show is suitable for children.
First known date: 2017

Works about this Work

Bennelong Ready to Tour Australia 2018 single work column
— Appears in: Koori Mail , 28 November no. 690 2018; (p. 9)

'The story of Bennelong - one of the first Aboriginal men to be captured and taken from his people - will be told in regional Australia next year.'

'Dark Emu' and 'Bennelong' by Bangarra Dance Theatre Claire G. Coleman , 2018 single work column
— Appears in: The Monthly , October no. 149 2018; (p. 61)
2017 Arts Highlights of the Year Various , 2017 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Book Review , November no. 396 2017; (p. 39-43)

'To celebrate the year’s memorable plays, films, concerts, operas, ballets, and exhibitions, we invited twenty-six critics and arts professionals to nominate some personal favourites.' (Introduction)

Bangarra, Coming Back to Country Aaron Smith , 2017 single work column
— Appears in: Torres News , 21-27 August no. 1280 2017; (p. 10)

'Despite rave reviews and a sell-out season of their most-recent production, Bennelong at the Sydney Opera House, dancer and choreographer Deborah Brown of the world-renown Indigenous dance company Bangarra said she was 'really nervous' about performing their 2015 hit show I.B.I.S. on Thursday Island on August 7.'

[Review Essay] Bennelong Fiona McGregor , 2017 single work essay
— Appears in: The Monthly , August no. 136 2017; (p. 64)

'The article reviews the theatrical production "Bennelong," by the Bangarra Dance Theatre at the Sydney Opera House in Australia'

Canberra Theatre Centre 2017 Season: Musicals, Merchants, Mechanicals and More Ron Cerabona , 2016 single work column
— Appears in: Brisbane Times , 17 October 2016;

'The 14 shows of the Canberra Theatre Centre 2017 Collected Works season, which was announced on Monday, October 17, will be bookended by two musicals. ...'

Bennelong's Life on Stage 2017 single work column
— Appears in: Koori Mail , 19 April no. 649 2017; (p. 8)
'The story of Bennelong, one of the first Aboriginal men to be taken from his people and introduced to European ways, will be celebrated in the form of dance when the Bangarra dancers take it to the stage this year.' (Introduction)
The Story of Bennelong Is Potent and Evocative – but It Is Being Contested Kate Fullagar , 2017 single work column
— Appears in: The Guardian Australia , 8 July 2017;

'Some historians have begun to question the enduring and tragic touchstones of the Aboriginal warrior’s life.'

From Nakkiah Lui to A.B Original, We Must Celebrate the Next Wave of Indigenous Storytellers Stephen Page , 2017 single work column
— Appears in: The Guardian Australia , 16 July 2017;

'The new generation of Indigenous creatives are vital. They stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, and build on 40,000 years of history.' (Publication summary)

[Review Essay] Bennelong Fiona McGregor , 2017 single work essay
— Appears in: The Monthly , August no. 136 2017; (p. 64)

'The article reviews the theatrical production "Bennelong," by the Bangarra Dance Theatre at the Sydney Opera House in Australia'

Last amended 22 Oct 2019 16:19:23