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VPLA 2023
Whitefella Yella Tree

Drama Award Shortlist

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Title: Whitefella Yella Tree

Author: Dylan Van Den Berg

Publisher: Currency Press in association with Griffin Theatre Company

Once in a blue moon, in the middle of nowhere, two teenage boys meet under a lemon tree. After a rough start, a fragile friendship fruits into a heady romance. Ty and Neddy fall madly in love, as teenagers are wont to do.

If history would just unfurl a little differently, the boys might have a beautiful future ahead of them. But without knowing it, Ty and Neddy are poised on the brink of a world that is about to change forever. It’s the early 19th century. Ty is River Mob. Neddy is Mountain Mob. And the earth they stand together on is about to be declared ‘Australia’.



Judges’ report

In Whitefella Yella Tree, two Indigenous teenage boys from different communities meet to share notes on the encroaching Europeans during a period of early settlement. As they come together each month to swap intelligence, the two boys begin to fall in love.

The writing is funny, warm, and moving, with the use of contemporary language and ideas in its historical setting bringing an almost-fairytalelike quality to this gently blossoming love story. The play is unflinching in its portrayal of the increasing impacts of colonial systems, morality, and ways of being, on the two boys.

Although we know what happens in the broader story of colonisation, the deeply personal and tenderly observed story of these two Indigenous boys captures the heady freedom of first love. This love story is a pitch perfect counterpoint of hope and resilience in the face of irreversible societal change.




An extract from Whitefella Yella Tree is available here.



About the author

Portrait of Dylan Van Den Berg

Dylan is a Palawa writer/dramaturg for stage and screen. He is currently in residence at Sydney Theatre Company through the Emerging Writers Group and was a 2021 Griffin Studio Artist. His play Milk premiered at The Street Theatre (ACT) in 2021, receiving the Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and the Victorian Premier’s Award for Drama. In 2020, his gothic revenge drama way back when won both the Griffin Award and the Rodney Seaborn Playwrights Award and was developed through Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s ‘Next in Line’ program. Dylan is currently under commission at The Street Theatre (ACT) and the National Theatre of Paramatta. Other recent and upcoming work includes for ArtsAct: Apprehended; for Belco Arts: Ngadjung; for Fringe at the Edge of the World: The Camel; for NIDA: All That Glitters is Not Mould; for The Street Theatre: Blue: a misery play; for Short+Sweet: Why am I a Fish?; and an adaptation of Barbara Baynton’s The Chosen Vessel. His short plays and other writing have appeared in Island Magazine (2020), BITE Magazine (2021), and an upcoming anthology published in the USA by the Centre for Sustainable Practice in the Arts (2022). On screen, Dylan writes regularly for Playschool, and is writing on another yet-to-be-released ABC children’s TV series. Dylan studied drama at the Australian National University and the State University of New York.




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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Centre stands. We acknowledge and pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Elders, past and present, as the custodians of the world’s oldest continuous living culture.