Your free what's on guide to the top end

The Swagman's Ghost

The swagman has appeared under many guises: hero, sheep thief, martyr.

Now Darwin playwright Levin Diatschenko offers another version of the fabled itinerant: a travelling mystic who delivers justice and rights wrongs – a swaggie with supernatural powers.

In his new play, The Swagman’s Ghost, premiering at Brown’s Mart this month, a legendary swagman (played by Yoris Wilson) pursues a band of outlaws disguising themselves as a 
group of musicians, hell-bent on hypnotising and robbing locals. 

“I wanted to write a western, but set it in Australia,” says Diatschenko, “to make the classic image of a swagman as something kind of mystical.”

Using a live band and Irish folk-inspired music, the play pits the thieving, motorbike-riding villains against the spiritual swagman, who is closer to a sadhu (a Hindu ascetic) than a wandering bushie, says Diatschenko.

Yet this swagman still represents an older, traditional code, says the playwright. 

“Community-based and welcoming. They had a hard-working vibe to them. A swagman would go from town to town and offer work in exchange for a feed.” 

What became of these values of neighbourly trust, generosity and acceptance is the deeper theme of the work.

With a powerful campfire and a ceremonial staff, entering the theatre of this swaggie’s story will feel like being part of a lively outback pub, albeit with a touch of mysticism.

Well-known Sydney director Stephen Helper has come to Darwin to direct, for which Diatschenko is grateful, creating the mood of an outback western, with set design by Katy Moir, Beck Adams on lighting design and visuals by Will Tinapple. 

The Swagman’s Ghost also stars Kadek Hobman and Katharina Fehringer.

See the event listing.

Share this