By SASWATI MUKHERJEE
A SLICE of history is set to be enacted soon at the Riverside Theatres in Parramatta.
Titled ‘Forgotten’, this is a play depicting one of the few female uprisings in history, at the Parramatta Female Factory Prison in 1827, a movement which in a way laid the foundation for today’s multicultural Parramatta.
Written by eminent playwright and social historian, Ms Catherine (Cate) Whittaker, ‘Forgotten’ portrays the abuse of the marginalized, voiceless and powerless women convicts at the Parramatta Factory.
It depicts the courage of the 220 young women who came together to turn the situation around. Hailing from all parts of the British Isles and Colonies, speaking different languages and a wide variety of dialects, they united against the tyranny and faced an array of bullets and bayonets to finally break down the gates of the Factory Prison.
Thus, the town knew that they were being starved to death. The movement was so powerful that it even brought down the Governor. The Factory Colonial Records mysteriously disappeared, leaving no trail of tyranny.
“This is a story all Parramatta should be proud of and should celebrate, it being one of the few places in the world where a courageous female rebellion against tyranny took place,” says Ms Whittaker. Thus started Parramatta’s journey of Multiculturalism, ably supported by the community of new immigrants.
Ms Whittaker’s gamut of work focuses on finding courageous women who were deliberately maligned in History to silence them and give them their rightful voice.
“Women are still abused and marginalised in our societies, including in Australia, and the enactment of such plays encourages young women to continue to fight against such injustice if they stand on the shoulders of their sisters in History who have fought against all odds and succeeded,” says Ms Whittaker.
She was commended in the Society of Women’s Writers National Non- fiction competition last year for her piece on ‘Elizabeth Fry- the Forgotten Feminist’.
Locally born Heidi Garmonsway, will play her ancestor, Matron Gordon in the play. ‘Forgotten’ has a young, multicultural drama graduate cast from Western Sydney, country NSW and other states. Interestingly, the play is directed by a young descendant of an Irish orphan girl brought here on a convict ship.
‘Forgotten’ was read on Wendy Harmer Breakfast in July 2019 to a huge response of telephone calls from the public to the ABC.
‘Forgotten’ returns to the Riverside on January 27 and 28, 2023, after its sell-out success in 2019.
Image: Local girl Casey Martin (Middle) with Lucy Hadfeild (close left) and Madeleine Wighton (Right) and Liz Grindley (far Left).
Photo: Laura Campbell.