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Theatre / Bran Nue Dae

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There's nothing I would rather be, than to be an Aborigine, and watch you take my precious land away. For nothing gives me greater joy than to watch you fill each girl and boy with superficial existential shit.

Bran Nue Dae is a stage musical that debuted in 1990 and is about Willy (no, not like that), an Australian Aboriginal boy from Broome who attends a Catholic Aboriginal mission boarding school in the Shining City of Perth in the late 1960s. German priest Father Benedictus, the school principal, is hoping for Willy to join the priesthood as his career. However, Willy has other plans; he just wants to live and fish in Broome and spend time with his Girl Next Door Love Interest. After caught stealing from the school canteen, he runs away from school and makes his way back home, teaming up with a minor Alcoholic, Too Quirky to Lose Honorary Uncle, a hippy and her reluctantly hippy boyfriend and a bus of football players. Hilarity ensues.

As it is a musical, it has to have songs. The Australian nature of the show and the film comes across in each number, and none is a typical ‘musical theatre’ song, all having various mixes of rock, folk, country and traditional Aboriginal elements.

Was made into a film in 2009 which became one of the highest grossing Australian films, raking in $7 million.

This show provides examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Uncle Tadpole spends Willy's last few dollars on booze, forcing them to hitchhike a very long distance. Don't really see him drinking again after that incident though.
  • Crapsack World: Played for laughs. Aboriginals in the ‘60s had very few freedoms, but the show and film take a humorous view while still highlighting the discriminations and problems of the time.
  • Crowd Song: The final number, a reprise of Nothing I Would Rather Be, sung earlier just before Willy runs away from school. Every character in the film gets a second in the limelight.
  • Eloquent in My Native Tongue: Most of the Aboriginal characters speak English using very Aboriginal accents and slang words, which are sometimes seen by white Australians as being uneducated. We rarely hear them speak their native languages, presumably for access purposes.
  • Going Native: The ending, where all the main characters eat a meal in Willy’s mum’s house and suddenly realise “We’re all Aboriginal today!” For the record: Willy, Tadpole, Rosie and Roxanne are indigenous, but Slippery is the result of a liaison between Benedictus and Roxanne, while Annie mentions she has some Aboriginal blood.
  • Honorary Uncle: Uncle Tadpole. In a twist, it's revealed that he is Willy's father, much to everybody's surprise except Willy's mum.
  • "I Am" Song: Long Way From My Country, sung by Uncle Tadpole the first time both Willy and the audience meet him.
  • "I Want" Song: Arguably Going Back Home, sung by Annie and Uncle Tadpole while on the road to Broome. Also a Road Song.
  • Minor Character, Major Song: Annie singing Afterglow.
  • Movie Bonus Song: Or in this case, soundtrack bonus song. Six White Boomers (a Christmas song) by Rolf Harris is on the soundtrack, but wasn’t in either the film or the stage production.
  • Singing Voice Dissonance: Willy's singing voice sounds nothing like his speaking voice, being dubbed by a performer with a higher tenor.