ILBIJERRI Theatre Company
Heart is a Wasteland
By John Harvey

Photo by Aaron Walker

3 performances on 4 – 5 August 2022 at the Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre Zingel Place Bega

Presented in association with The Twyford Hall Complex Ltd

Duration: 75 minutes, no interval

Warning: Strong language, sexual references, recommended for ages 15+

Book Tickets Here


WRITER John Harvey (Saibai Island)
DIRECTOR Dr Rachael Maza AM (Yidinji/Meriam)
PERFORMERS Monica Jasmine Karo (Gunai/Gunditjmara), Ari Maza Long
(Yidinji/Meriam), Gary Watling (Wiradjuri)

SONGWRITER Lydia Fairhall (Worimi)
SOUND DESIGN James Henry (Yuwaalaraay/Yorta Yorta)
AV DESIGN Sean Bacon
DRAMATURG Mark Pritchard
PRODUCER Alexandra Paige (Taungurung)


Heart is a Wasteland combines First Nations storytelling in a live music love story, set on the road through Australia’s heartland.

Raye, a country-music star in the making, plays pub-to-pub along Australia’s vast desert highways, trying to make a living in the hope of returning home to her son, Elvis. But when she meets Dan, another young wanderer at the crossroads of life, a love affair unfurls over a four-day drive to Alice Springs.

Following a sell-out premiere season at Darwin Festival 2021, ILBIJERRI Theatre Company’s Heart is a Wasteland – directed by the company’s multi award-winning Artistic Director Dr Rachael Maza AM – brings John Harvey’s humorous and deeply heartfelt script to life.

With original music by Lydia Fairhall, exquisitely arranged by Gary Watling; beautiful audio-visual design – this production brings Australia’s stunning outback right to the front – matched by the vitality of its new young leads.

Heart is a Wasteland exposes a soul-warming battle of egos, recognising everyone’s individual right to love.



The energy of this story has been sitting with me for a while, sometimes churning, sometimes sitting in the background. Perhaps it’s the aftermath of broken relationships that have disintegrated through the passing of time—the thoughts of love lost and love gained, and the effects of sitting with people during immense times of suffering. An unsettled consciousness that creeps and weaves through me until they settle. They are small windows or moments of truth, where we can grow and maybe begin to heal. Much of our country is carrying buried wounds that have been actively suppressed. And whilst these things may not be spoken about, the energy of them spills into our lives without recognition and healing. Heart is a Wasteland is a crazy black love story set over a few nights on a road trip cutting through the middle of Australia. It’s a reminder that we are spiritual beings following a physical journey on this earth. I’m blessed to have forged my words with that of my partner in crime, love and life—Lydia Fairhall, whose beautifully arresting lyrics help bring a raw truth and resilience to the character of Raye. Thank you to Dramaturg Mark Pritchard for his eternal passion, provocation and a steady hand to help this story find a voice. I first began to pen this story at an ILBIJERRI Black Writers Lab. I’m honoured to have the creativity and sharpness of Rachael Maza, and the energy of the creative team to realise this story.


Heart is a Wasteland is a beautifully articulated, deeply human love story by John Harvey in which we meet Raye and Dan. With both characters running from individual pasts they can’t escape, I knew from the start it was critical that whoever played these delightfully messy personalities would need to tap into their humanity, warmth, and relatability. It reminds me of why I love theatre so much.

Theatre is my weapon of choice–exploring narratives set to counter the two-dimensional stereotyped tropes of First Peoples – telling stories of our culture in all its diversity and complexity. Music is a strong third character in this production and musical director Gary Watling is simply superb. His artistry in realising Lydia Fairhall’s songs and his mastery in underscoring to set the mood, elevates the production to another level altogether. Our designer, Emily Barrie has created a dynamic space perfectly suited to Sean Bacon’s audio-visuals and complimented by Nik Pajanti’s stunning lighting. I could not be more proud of this team in bringing you Heart is a Wasteland.



John is the Creative Director of BROWN CABS and is a producer, writer, and director across theatre and film. He is the writer of the Green Room Nominated and highly acclaimed HEART IS A WASTELAND.

He has been a recipient of the Footscray Community Arts Centre Writer-In-Residence. In 2018 he was a recipient of the Malthouse Theatre Sidney Myer Fund Tower Residency creating a new theatre work. In the same year he was a recipient of Creative Victoria Creators Fund. He currently has writing commissions with Malthouse Theatre, ILBIJERRI Theatre Company and has a new work in development for BROWN CABS. In 2018, he directed new theatre work A LITTLE PIECE OF HEAVEN for Orana Arts.

John has many accomplishments in film including producing feature film SPEAR; being a producer on THE WARRIORS tv series; and has produced numerous First Nation short dramas. He has also directed documentary and short film narratives for screen.


Rachael is widely known for her wealth of acting, directing, and dramaturgical experience across the Australian film, television and theatre industry. Most notably, the AFI (Australian Film Institute) award-winning Radiance, stage production of The Sapphires, presented for ABC’s Message Stick, and acting coach for multi-award winning Rabbit Proof Fence. Her performances have also been acknowledged with a Green Room Award and Sydney Theatre Critics Circle Award.

Rachael first worked with ILBIJERRI Theatre Company in 1992, as director of Stolen, and in 2008 joined the company as Artistic Director. Since then she has directed iconic works such as Jack Charles V The Crown (2010), Foley (2011), Which Way Home (2017) and co-directed Black Ties (2020). Rachael’s contribution has been recognised through multiple awards, including the Touring Legend Drover Award, 2017 and the Australia Council of the Arts Award for Theatre (2019), as well as an Honorary Doctorate of Performing Arts from Edith Cowan University (2019).


James Henry is involved in many aspects of the music industry: from singer/songwriter to sound engineer to musical director. His diverse skill set has seen him perform as a guitarist on the Black Arm Band tour of the UK, and as a choir member and guitarist as part of Archie Roach’s Into the Bloodstream tour. His composition skills have attracted commissions from City of Melbourne to compose for experimental medias. James was also musical director of Tanderrum for the 2014 Melbourne Festival, and AFL’s Dreamtime at the ‘G performances. James has also worked with ILBIJERRI as sound designer for the 2017 touring production of Coranderrk.


Monica Jasmine Karo, (Gunai/Gunditjmara) is a singer-songwriter, actor, spoken-word poet, emerging playwright and MC. Monica has written and performed in theatre and music for festivals and other creative development works including ILBIJERRI’s BlackWrights Program, Yaluk-ut Weelam Ngargee Festival, Yirramboi Festival, and Blak & Bright Literary Festival. She has also recorded her original compositions for the Radio Reimagined Festival 2020 and Fuse Darebin Wurru Wurru Spring 2020. Monica studied a Bachelor of Fine Arts Theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts.



Ari Maza Long (graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art in 2021 and a month later was on stage in Belvoir’s production of AT WHAT COST? Born and raised into the world of performing arts, Ari began learning from an early age about the power of storytelling on stage and screen.  He found himself in his first public production at the age of five in the performance of THE BRIDGE by The Torch Theatre Company, and the following year in RIVERLAND by Windmill Theatre Company.  After completing high school, he performed in GONZO, at Malthouse Theatre with St Martins Youth Theatre Company.

Ari completed the Certificate IV of Aboriginal Performance at WAAPA and was then accepted into NIDA.  Whilst at NIDA, Ari performed in PERFECT STRANGER directed by Kate Champion and GOD’S COUNTRY directed by Liza-Mare Syron.


Gary Watling (Wiradjuri) graduated from the Southern Cross University with a Bachelor of Contemporary Music (Performance), before completing a Masters in Music (Performance Teaching) at Melbourne University, and a Masters of Teaching (Secondary) at Monash University. Gary has studied with some of Australia’s foremost guitarists and musicians and is a member of the country and western swing group, The Flaming Mongrels, and leads his own jazz outfit.



ILBIJERRI is Australia’s longest-running First Nations theatre company, 30 years strong in 2021. They create, present and tour challenging and provocative theatrical works that describe the experiences of First Nations people in Australia today with empathy and honesty.

ILBIJERRI’s work empowers and enlightens audiences, urges discussion, and brings Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices into the foreground of the national agenda. ILBIJERRI (pronounced ‘il BIDGE er ree) is a Woiwurrung word meaning ‘coming together for ceremony’. The company was born from Community and remains grounded in telling the stories of what it means to be First Nations in Australia today. Since 2010, the company has garnered multiple awards and presented across Australia, North America, Europe, New Zealand and Japan.

There is a growing hunger for ILBIJERRI’s work across Australia and around the world. They are committed to developing meaningful relationships with audiences through sharing stories they are uniquely placed to tell.

ILBIJERRI works to reclaim First Nations ways of working within the Australian arts sector, through programs and projects grounded in deep listening with, and for Community and Country. They are committed to a leadership role around best practice in cultural consciousness of First Peoples and ways of being. ILBIJERRI plays a crucial role in the future of First Nations performing arts ecology, at home and overseas.


Written by John Harvey. A RISING Co-presentation. This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria.

Performances at the Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre are co-presented by The Twyford and supported by the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund – an Australian Government initiative.