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The path to a golden play

2 March 2022

After sold-out seasons in Brisbane and Sydney and a blistering four minutes on the ABC’s Q&A, Meyne Wyatt’s City of Gold will be making its long-awaited WA debut in March.

In 2020, Wongutha-Yamatji actor and playwright Meyne Wyatt caught the nation’s attention on ABC’s Q&A, performing a searing monologue about racism towards First Nations people, from his debut play City of Gold.

Drawing on his own experiences of growing up in Kalgoorlie, City of Gold draws attention to injustice and racism in Australia, asking: have things changed?

City of Gold is the debut play from Wyatt, whose acting credits include roles in The Sapphires, Redfern Now and Mystery Road. With sold-out seasons in Brisbane and Sydney, City of Gold has enjoyed critical and popular success since premiering in 2019.

Now this West Australian story will be performed in its home state. Ahead of the season, Nina Levy caught up with Wyatt to learn more about his path to City of Gold.

Nina Levy: Welcome to the Festival Sessions, Meyne. Tell me, were you interested in performing arts as a kid? What made you decide to pursue a career in theatre?

A headshot of a young First Nations Man. He is smiling at the camera and wears a black t-shirt with a small heart-shaped logo over the left breast, decorated with the Aboriginal flag.
Meyne Wyatt

Meyne Wyatt: I was always the class clown. I was in a radio ad when I was eight, for Kalgoorlie local radio. I loved drama class at school and it was a slow progression from there.

NL: After attending high school in Perth you headed to the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA) in Sydney… what was the NIDA experience like?

MW: I had a good experience at NIDA. I made a lot of lifelong friends. It was demanding at times but it gave me tools for my career that I still use today.

NL: You’ve performed in such a diverse range of work across film, television and stage – what do you look for in a role? Do you have a favourite medium to work in?

MW: Interesting characters, interesting roles, interesting dialogue. I Iove every medium for different reasons. Film and TV you can be subtle and theatre you can be big.

NL: What inspired you to try your hand at writing?

MW: I always wanted to write my own stories at some point, maybe later in my career, but when I went through a dry work period, that compelled me to start.

NL: City of Gold is an incredibly successful debut play. How did it feel when you first realised the extent to which it was striking a chord with audiences and critics?

MW: I think it was satisfying to realise that all the hard work that went into it was paying off, but also that the message of the play was affecting people and it really took a hold of them.

‘City of Gold’ actor Ian Michael talks us through the play’s story in just 60 seconds.

NL: What is it like to act in a play that you’ve written, in comparison to acting in any other play?

MW: There’s a lot more work you have to put in and you probably have a greater investment in it. You also know where the characters come from and the environment and background homework is already done and inside you. So, it’s more work, but less work at the same time.

NL: How does it feel to bring City of Gold to your home state of Western Australia?

MW: This is where the play originates from; the barometer of whether it’s authentic or not will differ greatly to previous cities it’s been performed in because of the homegrown audience. But I think it’s a great opportunity for Western Australian audiences to see themselves on stage. And for me performing in front of my family and friends is a great opportunity.

NL: What do you hope Perth audiences will take away from City of Gold?

MW: I hope Perth audiences go home feeling something, whether it be positive or negative. I don’t care, just as long it’s not indifference.

City of Gold plays the Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA, 17 – 27 March 2022. 

City of Gold  will also have a season in Sydney, with Sydney Theatre Company, at Wharf 1 Theatre, 7 May – 11 June 2022.

Pictured top: Meyne Wyatt in rehearsal for ‘City of Gold’, with Myles Pollard, Mathew Cooper, Simone Detourbet, Ian Michael. Photo: Daniel J Grant.

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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