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The Widow of Wappan: The Play
Chris Thorne
Benalla artist and actor Chris Thorne who plays Taungurung leader, Baalwick in the play

Mansfield Musical and Dramatic Society, MMuDS performed The Widow of Wappan in March and April 2003 to enthusiastic audiences in both Mansfield and Healesville. It was a unique play, one which took writer/director Heather Matthew over five years to bring to fruition. The play explores the theme of reconciliation as it focuses on the life of John Bon and his wife (later his widow) Anne Fraser Bon and their relationships with the Indigenous people of Mansfield.

Anne also had a special friendship with Wurundjeri statesman, William Barak. The play explores her relationship with William Barak and what motivated her extraordinary decision to donate her late husband's tombstone to be resurfaced as a memorial to William Barak. This story is further explored in the book The Wdow of Wappan: the story which was published to coincide with the play production.

With a fine cast of Indigenous and non-Indigenous local actors, the play itself became a symbol of reconciliation in the Mansfield district.

Writer/director Heather Matthew (centre) with (from left) Megan Kelleher, Joe Peers and Lynette Shaw backstage at the Mansfield Performing Arts Centre.

With a story based firmly on fact and written documentation,the play moves backwards and forwards in time as Mrs Bon relives her memories of her early years as a young wife at Wappan Station.

Now 96 years old and living at the Windsor Hotel; she reveals her imperious yet strangely compassionate personality. She is at once both angered at the injustice of Government Indigenous policies and regretful that she could not have done more to help the Aboriginal people at Coranderrk, whose cause she had championed for fifty years.

Her family relationships were deeply flawed, and yet she was a pioneer of her time. A woman who commanded power, whose voice could not be ignored, a copious letter writer and a thorn in the side of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines BPA.

cast photo of
Widow of Wappan: the play in front of the set of the Windsor Hotel photo by Richard White