Aboriginal actors refused taxis four times before being racially abused
- by: Erin Marie, Sally Bennett
- From: Herald Sun
- May 02, 2013 5:06PM
Jada Alberts, pictured in play This Heaven earlier this year, was one of the actors refused taxis. Picture: Brett Boardman Source: Herald Sun
Actor Jada Alberts said she had been in the city rehearsing for The Shadow King, an upcoming indigenous production based on Shakespeare’s King Lear, when several cast members were refused cab rides and later told they “don’t exist” by an angry tram passenger the next day.
The Shadow King, also features actors including Rabbit-Proof Fence star Natasha Wanganeen, Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith actor Tom E Lewis, Chooky Dancer Djamangi Gaykamangu and Ten Canoes actor Frances Djulibing.
Ms Alberts said the trouble started on Monday evening, when their attempts at getting a cab from outside the Malthouse Theatre in South Melbourne proved fruitless with four different drivers all speeding off when they saw the group was Aboriginal.
It is understood the fifth cab booked by the Malthouse did agree to take the performers to St Kilda.
A Malthouse staffer, who is said to be mortified by the incidents, scrambled to purchase the visiting actors Myki cards so they could travel on the public transport network.
But the group suffered further abuse when a man directed racial taunts at them on a tram.
“He spotted us and came over,” Ms Alberts said.
“He’s then said, ‘You Aboriginal people, you don’t exist in this country. You should go.'”
The man then asked the driver to inform police that the actors did not have tickets.
It is believed the driver ignored the man.
Ms Alberts confirmed the group had been shunned by a “series of cabs”.
For those things to happen within the space of 24 hours was pretty heart-breaking
“As one would rock up, then they would say they couldn’t go that distance and drive away. It happened once they’d arrived, when they met the passengers,” she told ABC radio.
“I know that it’s not a usual occurrence, for those things to happen within the space of 24 hours was pretty heart-breaking for all of us to deal with.”
Malthouse Theatre media manager Maria O’Dwyer said it was “shocking and very sad”, but the incidents had not disrupted the actors’ work.
“Everybody is shocked and upset for them, but they’ve been amazing. All the cast and creatives are extraordinary people,” she said. “It’s been good that people have found this as disgusting as we have.”
The actors, who are in Melbourne for a week of creative development, will likely stay in St Kilda until they leave on Saturday.
But the Malthouse will consider housing them closer to the theatre when they return for rehearsals in early September before the production premieres on October 8.
The incidents follow other hate-fuelled racial abuse across the city’s public transport network last month.
In April, furious onlookers united to take a stand against a woman who exploded in a hateful rant in which she called an African commuter a “black —-” and shoved another commuter who publicly denounced her racist taunts.
Just days later, another woman on a Clayton-bound train unleashed a racist rant on a packed service after a fellow commuter refused to move a bag off a seat.
Everybody is shocked and upset for them, but they’ve been amazing
Last year, the city was shamed after a racist cab driver refused to ferry multi-award winning indigenous singer Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu in St Kilda.
The blind singer, who has performed for the Queen, had had a cab hailed for him by his white managers, Michael Hohnen and Michael Grose, after his Palais gig with Missy Higgins.
According to Hohnen the driver said he was happy to wait a minute but when he saw his passenger emerge he said “Nah mate”, and drove off.
Racism on Melbourne public transport also achieved global notoriety in November last year after a man, egged on by several others, screeched violent threats at a French woman on a city-bound bus from Frankston.
It also comes a week after a group of Aboriginal men said they would sue Qantas after claiming they were kicked off a flight.
The Shadow King is an epic reworking of Shakespeare’s King Lear and one of the biggest works undertaken by the Malthouse.
Artistic director Marion Potts previously said the Aboriginal take on the famous tragedy was a “hugely exciting and ambitious work” that had been three years in the marking.
Lead actors include Jimi Bani, the star of hit telemovie Mabo, and Tom E. Lewis, who will perform the role of King Lear.
“This is probably the biggest work to come out of our Engine Room,” Potts said. “It’s a large-scale indigenous work that’s taken a long time to develop and assembles a cast from all over Australia, so it’s hugely exciting for us to be finally doing it.”
The Shadow King uses the King Lear story as a springboard into a production about Australia’s vexed relationship with the land.
It will premiere during next year’s Melbourne Festival before touring to other major arts festivals across Australia.
– with AAP