A couple of years ago, Geoffrey Atherden took the draft script of a play he had written called Black Cockatooto Wesley Enoch to ask for some advice. As they were talking, a white cockatoo came and sat on the branch of the tree outside Enoch’s Sydney Festival office. “It was extraordinary. I said to Geoffrey ‘I wonder what that means’,” says Enoch.
“We both thought it was really amazing,” agrees Atherden. “The play is mostly about Johnny Mullagh, who was the best batsman of the 1868 [Indigenous cricket] tour of England, and his moiety was black cockatoo. What I found is that his people have two moieties, either black cockatoo or white cockatoo, and I decided he was black cockatoo, which means he has to marry a white cockatoo – and that’s what creates the significance about the white cockatoo landing outside Wesley’s office when we were talking because it’s the other moiety, the other skin.”
The bird’s appearance did indeed turn out to be a sign of a marriage or union, for the director originally attached to the play was not available when the dates were finalised, and Enoch...