I saw a production of Ned Manning’s play Luck of the Draw in 2000. I remember feeling very moved but also a bit manipulated by it, so I was interested to read it all these years later.
Luck of the Draw is a play about the Stolen Generation, about do-gooders who do more bad than good, and about losing a child/parent. It spans 56 years, from 1944 to 1990 and many Australian locations. The play begins with two children taken from their father in 1944 and their Dad standing in front of the train, trying to get it to stop. Flash forward 11 years and Pat has helped Annie escape and the two kids are trying to make their way home. Annie is 14 and pregnant, Pat is her big brother and has promised to take care of her but can never stay around for long.
PAT: Someone’s got to earn a quid for the bub, eh? Till you get on your feet. Come on, sis. I won’t let you down. Got you out of that Girl’s Home, didn’t I?
Annie has a little girl, Pearl, and brings her up on her own, hiding her in a flour sack whenever welfare comes calling to stop them taking her away.
ANNIE: When you get older you’re gonna learn all about this place. All the stuff I never learnt. You’re gonna learn it all. So you know. So no one can take it away from you. Oh yes, all the songs and all the stories, all that stuff. […] That old bastard never knew what he was doing when he got me pregnant. He gave me something to live for he did.
Pat pays Joe, a supposed friend, to look after Annie and Pearl while he’s away but Joe is an evil bastard and uses the opportunity to rape Annie repeatedly while threatening he’ll get welfare onto her and they’ll take Pearl away. Act One finishes with Pat finding out and bashing Joe within an inch of his life.
When Act Two begins there’s been another jump of time and Pearl is living in the city with her white dad, at the funeral of her adoptive mother. The rest of the play is spent working out what happened and heading towards the necessary reconciliations. There are times where it feels too earnest, but on the whole it’s a moving testimony to a shameful part of Australia’s history.
Publisher: Currency Press
Cast: 3F, 2M