3. Critical Acclaim

Stolen is an evening of pain and anguish. It is an evening of shame and sorrow. It is an evening of desperate pleading for reconciliation between black and white in Australia. ... This is an important work for Australia. Not an apportioning of blame, rather a deafly realised dramatisation of a shamefully cruel past and a plea for a brighter future.

(Jason Steger, The Sunday Age, October 25, 1998)

Just five stories are told out of the thousands of stolen children´s lives that compose Australia´s shameful, recent past. ... If there is a miracle in this story of almost unbelievable cruelty, it is the victims´ lack of rage or desire for revenge. But they want the stories to be heard, and the emotional impact of sitting through their telling in Stolen is so powerful it makes the word sorry seem totally inadequate. ... Jane Harrison´s script ... is economical and understated, and all the more effective for that. ... The play´s emotional impact comes from the very impersonality of the cruelties these children and adults suffer. ... Plays such as Stolen should help us unpack the hidden assumptions of racism, to understand its entanglement with class, cultural ignorance and fears of the "other".

(Helen Thomson, The Age, October 26, 1998)

Stolen pays homage to those who survived and those who perished because of this appalling policy to separate children from their families and lie about it. It is a sweet, startling and moving experience.

(Kate Herbert, Herald Sun, October 28, 1998)

Jane Harrison´s skilful staging of the heart-rending story of the Stolen Generations provides an opportunity to think about its powerful subtextual meanings. It is not just the cruelty, the shameful victimisation of innocents, that strikes home, but the multiplication factor that sees the damage passed on and outward into society at large. ... It is impossible to witness it and remain unmoved.

(Helen Thomson, The Age, July 27, 1999)

The issues swarming around the "Stolen Generations" have proved fertile for centuries of dramatic exploration. Traumas of exile and alienation have produced works as varied as Sophocles´ Philoctetes , Shakespeare´s King Lear,and Athol Fugard´s The Island ; assumed racial superiority has led to works such as Othello , Brian Friel´s Translations , and Pieter-Dirk Uys Dekaffirnated ; and the sudden loss of a child has played a major part in Aeschylus´s Oresteia , Arthur Miller´s All My Sons and Sean O´Casey´s Juno and the Paycock.

(Rachel Halliburton, The Independent, July 5, 2000)

10 per cent of Aboriginal people grew up not knowing their real mothers, ... Many figures and much rhetoric have been generated by this issue in Australia, but it´s taken the theatre to show politicians and the public the personal cost of this cultural eugenics. The most controversial play has been Jane Harrison´s Stolen , which has reportedly left Australian Audiences in tears... The play becomes a chilling charge sheet.

(Ian Johns, The Times, July 7, 2000)

Harrison 's play ... is not worthy, it is not preachy, it is not even violently angry. It simply recounts the aboriginal experience in fluid and entertaining form. What it proves ... is that good theatre is the best way of recording social injustice. Harrison's method is to focus on five characters. ... All have one thing in common: they were stolen children. But a key point the play makes is the diversity of aboriginal experience. What is impressive is the form, a restless, time-transcending ... You are moved by the authenticity of the experience - these are true stories vividly told.

(Michael Billington, Guardian Unlimited, July 8, 2000)


  Short Stories Model Interpretations  

Jane Harrison , Stolen

Stolen, which is set in a welfare home for stolen children, opens with the five characters, each holding a suitcase and standing on a sparse, half-lit stage, with a didgeridoo droning ominously in the background. ... The play proceeds through a series of episodes rather than a straightforward linear plot. This helps to provide a concrete picture of each individual whilst demonstrating how being separated from their families has affected their lives. ... Stolen gives flesh and blood to a policy that has impacted on the overwhelming majority of Aboriginal families and helped to produce the high incidences of alcoholism, drug abuse, mental illness and suicides.

(Gabriela Notaras, World Socialist Web Site, July 25, 2000)

Harrison 's play, performed by an Aboriginal cast, brings these true and harrowing stories alive, cutting them one into another like a rough-and-ready patchwork quilt. ... This is an evening of theatre that is simple, direct and fierce. It is childlike but not childish. It is scrupulous about not manipulating its audience and yet I found myself watching its conclusion through tears. This is about as simple as it gets in terms of stagecraft and yet it has more power than a £1m West End blockbuster.

(Lyn Gardner, The Guardian Unlimited, November 23, 2001)

The single word "stolen" resonates, for a contemporary Australian audience, with the bitterness of the debate that has gone on in our society over recent years on the subject of the stolen generation. The absence of the word "generation" from the title of the play emphasises the irrelevance of debates over culpability and semantics. ... While we initially receive the meaning of "stolen" as referring to the theft of the children, it also reminds us of what the children in turn had taken away from them. The play economically conveys the understanding that what they lost included emotional and physical security, selfhood, their language, their culture and control over their lives.

(Valerie Sutherland, The Age, April 9, 2003)

The play opens in the dorm of one such home, in which there are five iron beds and a filing cabinet, centrally placed like a replacement parent. The ceiling is split down the middle like forked lightning, and the design is a kind of portent, for this play is written to cut to the quick. . . The Aboriginal children follow different paths but their initial plight is the same. They are consumed by collective grief: they all wonder why their mothers never come. And their story unfolds in a deliberately childlike way. ... The play asks for tears - and never stops asking. But at the end it works.

(Kate Kellaway, The Observer , Sunday July 9, 2000)

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