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The Hidden Orchard

For around one hundred years from 1860, apples, pears, plums, cherries, apricots, lemons, peaches, quinces and hops were grown throughout Maroondah. Wisps of this history still exist in the local community with well-known streets and parklands named after orcharding families with the Pride of Ringwood hops an essential component in many a contemporary brew. Based on verbatim research from newspapers, records and recollections by past and present residents as well as her father’s reminiscences of his childhood on a nearby orchard, project director and playwright Sharyn Mullens Taylor OAM has created a narrative inspired by real stories for The Hidden Orchard theatre production and an installation which incorporates the theatre set, original video works and a timeline of selected moments in Maroondah’s orchard history.

Hidden Orchard Commute-castFresh Theatre
00:00 / 21:24

Before you come and experience a performance of The Hidden Orchard, we highly recommend listening to the Director Sharyn Mullens Taylor discuss the development of the project with Wurundjeri Elder, Aunty Zeta Thompson and historian Kerrie Handasyde. It is a podcast for your commute from home to the show.

Hidden Orchard publicity image.jpg

Directors Notes

"There was a yearly rhythm. Maintained, a line, unbroken for generations."


From the very beginning, I felt a deep familiarity with the stories, families and orcharding communities explored in this project. My father grew up on an orchard in Burwood East, the last in a long line of generational orchardists and stories of this time were woven into my childhood. He saw the end of the orchard industry in the area and experienced his father's grief at the bulldozing of trees that had been cultivated for generations. The suburban expansion of sixty years ago led to the sale and subdivision of many orchards and those that resisted found their rural land rezoned to residential and land rates increased ten fold in a matter of years. This made the fight to remain in the orchard industry financially impossible.


"Straight lines."


Images of the orchards that covered the Maroondah area show rolling hills and gullies cultivated into straight lines of fruit trees. Orchard boundaries on old maps, carve up the bush, swamps and scrub. Roads and shopping districts shape themselves around trainlines and passages of transport for the produce grown in the area. Some of these blocks were 'jumped Land.' A family moved into a natural bush area, cut down trees, planted and cultivated into workable lines. Once they proved they developed the land they then applied for the title from the land office. This land was then handed down through generational lines until sale and subdivision into the residential blocks that most Maroondah residents and I am sure many reading this, now occupy.


"Commercial fruit growing in Australia began with introduced species."


There was a tension, from the very beginning. How can we tell the story of the feelings of dispossession of the orchardists without exploring the people from whom the land was taken and straightened? How do I write a play that explores land rights that is set in a era that uncritically viewed the occupation of Indigenous lands? And whilst my investigations into the lives and land of the Maroondah orchardists was heavy with verbatim recollections, scholarly research, newspaper reports, documents, books, artefacts and photographs. Any exploration into the first and longest inhabitants of the area, The Woi Wurrung, Wurundjeri people, was met with scant local knowledge or worse still, a vacuumous silence. That is not to say there is not story, Brushy Creek in Croydon North is the birthplace of William Barak, Ngurungaeta of the Wurundjeri who was present when John Batman attempted to 'buy' the area. But, personal first nations stories are infused with a movement away and diffused with silent voids, that I struggled to fill.


"Obscured by time and power."


It is difficult to not feel a sense of nostalgia for our childhood or times past. There were gifts to life 100 years ago that many of us yearn for now. But like today, there were also elements that were incredibly problematic. Religious division and Anti-Catholic discourse, prejudice against Irish immigrants, inequality for women and the systemic and catastrophic oppression of the culture, society and community of Australia's First People. Things that are wrong now and, despite calls to see the systems and behaviours in the context of the era, they were wrong then too. As a result, there are words and descriptions in this play that may be culturally sensitive and not often used in public or community contexts. These terms are essential for truth-telling and to the reflect the themes and issues of the period in which the play is set. However, they are considered inappropriate today.


"Now I have heard people say it all started when the Cool stores burned, others say it was when they moved the clocktower or demolished the town hall. I say it started when Lenzie Mullens was shot."


It is not normal for a playwright to place their own family name amongst the personae of their characters. Lenzie Mullens and his family are an exception. Lenzie is my Great Uncle. He was accidentally shot and killed at the age of thirteen, in the manner described in the play. His parents were Len and Olive. When, during my research, I found newspaper reports of the accident, I consulted my family as to their memories of the story. No one had any recollection of the event, nor of that branch of our family tree. Lenzie's branch was now bare. When tragedy finds you and loved ones are lost, it seems incredulous that life continues on regardless. That the world can look the same when everything in your life is so different. The fear that your loved one will be forgotten, that one day no one will say their name or know their story, adds a layer of grief that feels insurmountable. So, for Olive and Len, I lifted him out of that silence, from the annals of history, into the play, his story remembered and his name uttered every time the text is read or performed.


"Will people a hundred years from now, look up and know we longed for them too? Care who we were, what we went through?"


What is the purpose of this play, where is it's value?  What can we say in this performance that cannot be found with a Google search or a trip to the local library? Our work with youth and young people means that I become increasingly uncomfortable with the narrative that things used to be better and the future is bleak. We must be careful of the dialogue we maintain about the past. Despair is a terrible legacy to hand our children. A century ago the every township had a progress society, community leaders driven to see the area develop and grow. Most of these committee members were established orchardists from throughout the area. They tried to imagine the place we inhabit today and hoped the decisions they made and causes they advocated for served the community they were in. I am not sure we as different from them as we think. Parent's wanted a safe place for their children, women wanted equality and the first people of Australia wanted their voices heard. What if we are everything our ancestors hoped we could be?


"New blocks on old land."


It is often easy to forget that we are not just part of a community that stretches throughout the spaces of Maroondah, but we are also part of a community that stretches back in time and forward into the future. The Hidden Orchard attempts to engage in current discourse about the past and encourage the community of Maroondah to pause and reflect on not just who we have been, but also who we want to be.

CreativE TEAM

Shaz Mullens Taylor - Project Director / Playwright

Eva McEntee - Creative Director

Andrew Bacaller - Composer and Sound Designer

Cinematographers - Finn Clarke Bobby Dong and Hugo Stevens


Cinematic DesignS


The Hidden Orchard

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