It was going so well. One thing I was warned about was racism in Perth but nothing happened till the night before we left, walking back to the hotel on my own, a car pulled up, wound down its window and from the back seat. 'Do you have a dirty big black cock?!' I replied immediately, 'Do you have a small white one?' His friends started laughing at him and I cursed for sinking to his level, walked away disgusted with myself. That was the only dark patch in an otherwise glittering of memories. The shows went well, audiences have been very responsive. At the end of the first show, about 20 young girls from a school 400 miles away waited for me to sign The 14th Tale scripts they'd purchased and to thank me for the show. The second night was in the 600 seater venue, we sold about 500 tickets and afterwards, a lady walked to me, saying her father had just been admitted to intensive care and she chimed with everything I spoke of in the play. Her eyes watered as she spoke and I made sure to hold her hand till she settled before letting go. We left Perth at 4.30 am, flew to Albany where Rod, the festival programmer there collected us from the airport. Rod told about his dealings with the Noonga people, one of the eleven indigenous tribes of Australia, the ones local to this part of Oz. Rod spoke quietly and confidently. In his car, he made sure to stare into my eyes through the rear view mirror as he spoke, somehow paying the same amount of attention to Thierry, my director who sat in the front passenger seat. He tries to know as many of the indigenous people as he can; tries to spend time with them. He says he'd been taken on walkabouts, trips through the land he is sure no one else of white skin had been privileged enough to go on. He says when you go on a walkabout, you get a deeper sense of understanding, of connection with the land. 'As we walked, they sang the land and told me stories of dream time, when giants walked the waters, stuck a spear into the side of this mountain, gouging out the earth, dashed after this battle...' He says that they have been here for at least 30,000 years, there is archeological evidence to prove so. 'The British came about 200 years ago' he says. They are just blips in the aboriginal timeline. Yet, the rate of destruction and change has been incredible. 'Some tribes were almost entirely wiped out by the settlers' he says, and something gives way in his voice. I'm reminded of a saying that all thats needs to happen for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Rod is a good man, I wish for more like him.
We drive to Katanning. I'm in the back seat of a people carrier Elke - a fascinating woman of German heritage who works with the indigenous people on health matters, but also works for the festival, is speeding through the roads. Thierry is sat beside her in the front. On either side is the vast rolling countryside of Western Australia. They say there are trees here 300 feet tall, trunks so roads were built THROUGH them. There are questions equally large, ones I think into the flat brown lands; that the lands think back at me. How can the government make amends? What role can art play? If an indigenous tribesman came to see my show, would they get it? Does that matter? What is the 'it' to get? Am I part of the problem?
The show goes well in Katanning, it is the smallest audience at 30, but none of them left, they stayed to individually thank me. A young guy I'd accosted into coming early that afternoon, thanked me for pestering him, said he grandfather had a brain tumour and he understood and cried through the last 10 minutes of the show. There were no indigenous people there and the previous questions haunted me. Elke drives us back to the lodge we'd rented for the night, I step out of her car and for some reason glanced upwards, and gasp. I haven't seen the stars for a long time, London's smog pollutes their shining. Here, they are bright and close, vast, innumerable. Elke says that this is nothing, that I should see the stars in the desert where she works. 'It's like a ceiling, like you can just reach out and touch them, and if you lie back on the ground and watch, you notice the earth's tilt because they move and when you see how the milky way trails into the desert, you realise your insignificance again, you ask yourself why you worry about anything when you are nothing.'