History replays on mountain stage

Playwright Wendy Blaxland has written a play to commemorate and celebrate the first recornised European crossing of the Blue Mountains. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Playwright Wendy Blaxland has written a play to commemorate and celebrate the first recornised European crossing of the Blue Mountains. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

By Ellen Hill

“All the world is a stage’’, according to Shakespeare, and for playwright Wendy Blaxland the bard’s famous line is true.

The latest play for the descendant of Gregory Blaxland, Crossing, the play celebrates the momentous achievement which saved the colony from starvation – the first recognised European crossing of the Blue Mountains, as well as many other characters from the era.

An excerpt of it premiered at the official launch of the Blue Mountains Crossings Bicentenary 2013-2015 at Echo Point on Saturday, February 23.

Crossing, the play is a lively, interactive exploration of crossings from the Aboriginals who have crossed for 40,000 years through to explorers such as Blaxland, William Charles Wentworth and William Lawson, surveyor Evans, road builder Cox, women pioneers Elizabeth Hawkins and Louisa Meredith, convicts and even the dogs, horses and bullocks who made the journeys possible.

The great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Gregory Blaxland said had been preparing for the moment for 16 years, since she created an interactive story session for the classmates of her daughter Jessica Blaxland Ashby, then 8.

The author of more than 100 books, Wendy has worked in theatre all her life. Her mother was well known drama director Audrey Blaxland, who founded the Marian Street Theatre in Killara in 1974. Wendy has a long association with the Marian Street Theatre for Young People which arose from its ashes in 2002.

A scene from Crossing! the play by Wendy Blaxland. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

A scene from Crossing! the play by Wendy Blaxland. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

However, she has stepped back from her work at the theatre to work full-time on the play, even recruiting actors for the roles.

“It has been the most extraordinary journey,’’ she said.

“It’s very humbling. I feel like the mountains community is letting us help them celebrate this significant moment in our nation’s history.’’

“It’s not just about Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson. It starts with the Aboriginals and the early explorers and then goes through to the Evans and Cox era because I wanted to get different perspectives.

“We are not saying: `Look at these famous people’. We want people to feel we all belong and that we are all equal living and working together. I want to inspire people and have them recognise that their story is of worth.’’

Crossing, the play will be performed throughout the Blue Mountains, Lithgow, Bathurst and Sydney in schools and public family performances during 2013.

Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism chairman Randall Walker said: “We have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm with which the descendants of the original explorers have embraced this significant historical moment.

“Members of the Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson families have taken part with gusto, and in their own way have creatively ensured they too will make their mark on the historical landscape of this nation.’’

Along with an historic flyover of up to 200 aircraft over the Blue Mountains, the Blue Mountains Crossings Bicentenary 2013-2015 will include a three-year program of events to commemorate and celebrate: the first recognised European crossing of the Blue Mountains in 1813 by explorers Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth; the building of the Cox’s Road and finally celebrating Governor Lachlan Macquarie visiting Bathurst, Australia’s first inland settlement.

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