It's January 1834. The Frederick, the last ship built at the convict settlement of Sarah Island in Macquarie Harbour, is about to sail for the new prison at Port Arthur. Ten convict shipwrights have other ideas. So begins the story of an amazing escape, an extraordinary voyage and an intriguing twist in the tale of The Ship That Never Was.
The Ship That Never Was
The Amphitheater is located next door to the West Coast Visitor Information Center and Morrisons Huon Pine Sawmill.
" It is an exciting and dynamic dramatic experience, not to be missed." Tim Bowden, Author
It's January 1834. The Frederick, the last ship built at the convict settlement of Sarah Island in Macquarie Harbour, is about to sail for the new prison at Port Arthur. Ten convict shipwrights have other ideas.
So begins the story of an amazing escape, an extraordinary voyage and an intriguing twist in the tale of The Ship That Never Was.
The Ship That Never Was is a live professional theatre production, performing in Strahan since January 1994, written by Richard Davey and produced by The Round Earth Company.
The play tells the dramatic and hilarious true story of the Great Escape from Sarah Island! Delightful family entertainment not to be missed!
The Round Earth Company is a professional Theatre Company that specialises in researching and telling local stories. At present we are operating principally in Strahan on the West Coast of Tasmania, resident at the Richard Davey Amphitheatre.
The Round Earth Company was formed in Western Australia in 1972 with the support of Childrens Activities Time Society (CATS) with Joan Pope and Jan Keely, as an 'on the road' company to trade in stories. The Company travelled 1972-75 in Western Australia, Northern Territory and South Australia, working in remote mining and aboriginal communities.
Between 1975 and 1980 the core family - Richard and Kathi Davey with daughters Kiah and Alinta - travelled around the world in North and Central America, Great Britain, Europe and North Africa and India. They returned to Australia in 1980 and settled in Tasmania to commence a 20 year project in translating the story of Van Diemens Land and Tasmania into performance events.
Since 1980 the company has created over 50 plays and events in Tasmania and throughout Australia. In 1994 The Round Earth Company was invited to establish a performance program for travellers and visitors to Strahan and to Sarah Island in Macquarie Harbour. The Company also has a repertoire of stories about Tasmania, many of them site-specific: at Port Arthur, Stanley (Highfield House), Hobart and elsewhere.
- Aware of the needs of families
- Members of our staff have their own families
- We welcome families
- Onsite travel guides, books and brochures
- Confidentially assist parents/guardians with information on in-house and local services
- 4Kids Australia Certified
- Onsite parking
- Pram friendly
- Wheelchair/mobility friendly
- Interactive experiences for children
- Use sustainability principles or are actively working towards developing them.
- Use bio-degradable products
- Practice water efficiency and conservation
- Encourage water conservation
- Actively working towards reducing our Carbon Footprint
- Practice recycling
- Onsite reception
- Cater for larger families (five people plus)
- Tours promote Tasmania
- Tours suitable for infants
- Tours are suitable for children under 12
- Tours are suitable for Teenagers
THE SHIP THAT NEVER WAS - 25th ANNIVERSARY PERFORMANCE
AUSTRALIA'S LONGEST RUNNING PLAY IS CELEBRATING 25 YEARS IN STRAHAN!
At 5:30pm on Saturday 5th January 2019, The Ship That Never Was will be performing it's 25th anniversary show, at the Strahan Primary School, where it began it's long west coast run.Written and directed by Tasmanian playwright, Richard Davey, for Breadline Theatre Company, the original production was performed in 1985 at the Peacock Theatre in Hobart with a cast of twelve actors.
For the next ten years, an ever-changing cast of six actors performed the play at various festivals and events around Tasmania and Melbourne.In 1994, Richard Davey was invited to bring The Ship That Never Was to Strahan. Rewritten for 2 actors, The Ship That Never Was has been performed in Strahan ever since. June 2018 marks our 6500 performance, and over 90 actors have been involved in the production since it's creation.
The highlight of our history here in Strahan will be the celebration of our 25th anniversary on the west coast, and our 34th anniversary since the original production in Hobart. Everyone is welcome, so come and join our celebration in January 2019!
Live Performances - September to May
At the Richard Davey Amphitheater, next to the West Coast Information Centre, 12 The Esplanade, Strahan
Every Day at 5.30pm
approx. 1 hour 15 min
Adults $25.00,Concession $20.00, Student (18 yrs & over) $12.50, Children (4-17 yrs) $2.50
(Please note: Prices are subject to change)
THE MOVIE - June to August
At the Risby Cove Theatrette, next to the Risby Cove Restaurant, 57-67 The Esplanade, Strahan
Every Day at 5.30pm
approx. 1 hour 20 min
Adults $10.00,Concession $20.00, Children (4-17 yrs) $2.50
(Please note: Prices are subject to change)
The Guided Tour of Sarah Island
"I have recently visited Strahan where my wife booked us on a boat trip to include the harbour and the Gordon. Imagine my chagrin to find that our pleasant sojorn on a boat was to be interrupted by a stopover at a small island where we were to be 'mundaned' by yet another tour guide. What followed for about one hour developed as the absolute highlight of a three week visit to Tasmania. To those whose time, efforts and passion are so woven into their educating of others, I can say no more than a complete THANK YOU. Richard Davey inspired, cajoled, harangued and taught. Both the message and the messangers of Sarah Island have left a more poignant memory than those other parts of Tasmania wishing to pass on similar histories. I am left with a sense of hollowness for not taking the time to participate in 'The Ship That Never Was' - next time such an oversight will not occur - and there will be a next time."
Chris Maher, Wollongong NSW
Sarah Island (or Settlement Island) is found in the far south-west corner of Macquarie Harbour, on the west coast of Tasmania, within sight of the world renown Gordon River. This isolated island was a Penal Settlement between 1822 and 1833, established, before the more well-known Port Arthur, as a place of 'secondary' punishment, an attempt to control the uncontrollable.
Over time Sarah Island has gained a reputation as a place of unspeakable horrors and a living hell, largely due to the exploits of one of the island's 'colourful' characters, Alexander Pearce, the Cannibal Convict, and a novel For the Term of His Natural Life written about 1860 by Marcus Clark. The novel, although based on actual events, is a fiction which set out to create Sarah Island as a living hell for its hero, Rufus Dawes.
"Sarah Island is remembered only as a place of degradation, depravity and woe." JOHN WEST 1842.
Other accounts by contemporary writers create further confusion. Dr. John West (quoted above), who wrote its first real 'history', was a committed Anti-Transportationist, prepared to use his account to paint black a system which was viewed by many as little more than slavery.
Was Sarah Island Really a "Hell on Earth?"
Altogether about 1200 men and women were sentenced or sent to Sarah Island. Most of them had committed further offences while serving their original sentences; others came as 'remittance men', skilled tradesmen who worked at the Settlement in exchange for remission of their sentence.
They were supervised by military detachments of several regiments (up to 90 soldiers at one time), and by a variety of Civilian Officers, Supervisors and Constables, many of whom were ex-convicts. Ships' crews were regular visitors, tradesmen were co-opted and often bribed to work at the Settlement, there were women and children, some convicts working as servants, some wives of soldiers and officials, some wives and children of convicts.
The Muster in 1828 was a total of 531, including about 380 convicts, 95 military, 14 women, some civilians and 27 children.
The early work of the Settlement was timber-cutting and hauling, work that could be done largely by unskilled gangs. But shipping out the valued Huon Pine proved more of a problem than expected: one solution was to build ships at the Settlement to transport the timber. Soon Sarah Island was more than just a prison. It was also an industrial village: gardeners, timber cutters, sawmen, boatmen, tanners, bootmakers, blacksmiths, tinsmiths, carpenters, boat builders and shipwrights, fencers, bakers, cooks, medical orderlies, quarrymen and stonemasons, brick makers, lime-burners, coal miners, clerks, accountants, artists and draghtsmen.
There are few obvious ruins on the Island today. Most of the buildings were of timber construction which has been removed or rotted. Some deliberate damage many years ago by those who wanted the island's history forgotten and the activity of souvenir collectors in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century have depleted the brick and stone structures. We do have some detailed images of the Island painted by the artists who served time there (skilled draughtsmen sent for forgery). But the real task of re-construction is to create a picture of the people who lived and worked there.
What we are trying to do at present is to put together a detailed picture of all these people, what they did, how they related to each other, and above all how they responded to the harsh environment and the brutal treatment meted out for at least half of the period of the Settlement.
The Guided Tour offers a 'preview' of this complex picture and introduces you to some people of Sarah's Island. The Tour has been researched and prepared by Richard Davey with the assistance of Dr. Hamish Maxwell-Stewart. It is presented by members of The Round Earth Company. The guided tour is included as part of the Full Day cruise on the Gordon River. These cruises are operated by World Heritage Cruises and Gordon River Cruises.
The story told on the Guided Tour has been elaborated by Richard Davey in The Sarah Island Conspiracies, published in 2002 by The Round Earth Company. Also published in 2003 The Travails of Jimmy Porter, a memoir written on Norfolk Island in 1842 by James Porter, mastermind of the great escape on the Frederick.