Unlike Grenville's novel, which focuses on the Thornhill family, particularly the patriarch William (Nathaniel Dean) in which the aboriginal people are voiceless, this production gives voice to the Darug people on stage. They speak in their native tongue, sans-subtitles, and we are placed in the curiously insightful position of being allowed to decipher meaning, or attempt to do so.
The hybridity in perspectives and storytelling techniques remains diplomatic (but far from tokenistic) as classic British songs and dangerous pub-spun yarns work alongside corroboree and tales told with lines drawn by charcoal-tipped sticks.
We know how this story ends, like so many others, but Neil Armfield's directorial vision ensures we get there with a new understanding of its lasting impact and importance. In the end, the convict 'come good' Thornhill stands in an ill-fitting sports jacket, the shoulders hanging off his own; as big as the lies he's telling himself.
Sydney Theatre: Walsh Bay, Sydney Festival, to Saturday 9 February
This week's new sets include music from locals Gurrumul, Josh Pyke and West Thebarton Brothel Party plus new tunes from The Maccabees and Albert Hammond Jr.