The symbolism of structure and style in Jack Davis’ No Sugar.


No Sugar is a play written and performed in 1985, with further performances in 1986, which explores the story of an Aboriginal families fight for survival during the depression years while also portraying the abuse and marginalisation that Aboriginal people were presented with during this time. The play explores the racism, white empowerment, Aboriginal disempowerment, Aboriginal views of family and Aboriginal dependency on whites during this period. The play references the Chief Protector of Aborigines, Auber Octavius Neville, A. O. Neville who was a person in the real world whose likeness was an accurate representation of how he conducted himself during this time period. Throughout the play, the structure and the style of included are used to drive home the point of aboriginal marginalisation and discrimination.


Structure – How stage directions are used in the text

In the play stage directions are a key aspect of the experience, and are used to further the ideas represented within the play. A pertinent example of this is the Union Jack and portrait of the King found during A. O. Neville’s speech during Act three scene five. These props do a good deal to build up Neville’s condescending and pretentious demeanor, as they reinforce his racist and discriminatory views on how aboriginal people should be “helped in spite of themselves”.

Stage directions are also used to reinforce Aboriginal ideas of culture in the text; with Jimmy sharpening an axe “Bush fashion”, with the connotation being that Jimmy is sharpening his axe in such a way that doesn’t conform to the white norm of how this action should be done and that the axe sharpening is being undertaken in an aboriginal fashion which is a portrayal of Jimmy upholding his Aboriginal culture.


How stage construction is used in the text

The setting is described as being a “dispersed setting on an open stage. In the productions of the play the so called “white” sections of the setting such as the police station, Neville’s office and the super intendant’s office where all placed on the sides of the stage while aboriginal areas of setting such as government well and the Moore river settlement were placed in the centre of the stage. This was done to draw attention to the isolation of aboriginal culture, which in real word could be described as being put to the side with white culture being dominant an event still occurring to this day, but instead of the play conforming to this idea the roles were reversed and white culture was sidelined so that the audience’s focus was placed on aboriginal culture.


How humour is used in the text

Even at the time of writing and production of the play, most of the intended audience of the play (white middle to upper class Australians), would of either been willfully or accidently ignorant to the treatment of aborigines in the past. As a result humour is used as a literary device throughout the play to engage the audience to situations and problems that aboriginal people faced in society; problems and situations such as the racism, white empowerment and aboriginal disempowerment. The character of Jimmy is a perfect example of the use humour, as the character’s expressions and general attitude throughout the text is hilariously belligerent. Even though he could be viewed as a character that is just a drunk at the start of the play it is quickly evident that Jimmy is 100% politically aware of what is going on, such as the removal of aboriginals from Northam which he explains to one of the characters in detail.


Style- Allusion to sugar in the text

Within the play sugar is referred to constantly, whether it be the title of the play or during the stage directions. Sugar is used as a device to indicate the wellbeing of the aboriginal population within the play. At the start of the play in act one scene one it says that Sam Millimurra is preparing cups of tea that “generously laced with sugar” whereas later in the text in Act four Scene four the aboriginal population of the settlement join to sing an alternate version of the hymn which highlights the situation that they face, with this alternate version stating that there is “no sugar in our tea”. The use of sugar as a motif is a way to further the impact of what is going on the text, as it even gets to a point where the aboriginal population doesn’t have a basic household item such as sugar.


by D.S.



One thought on “The symbolism of structure and style in Jack Davis’ No Sugar.

  1. With further refinement and direction, this could be a strong blog post.
    At the moment, this is lacking in depth and it appears as though you’re confused about ‘structure’.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s