Neil Armfield’s staging won five-star reviews, but staging it in the Australian landscape takes it to new level.

How do you top an award-winning five-star show four years on from its premiere? The 2017 Adelaide Festival, which kicked off last night, managed to do just that with a visually rich and intensely moving staging of The Secret River, Andrew Bovell’s adaptation of Kate Grenville’s Booker Prize nominated novel, set in the overwhelmingly beautiful natural surrounds of the Anstey Hill Quarry in Tea Tree Gully.

The Secret River.Photos © Shane Reid

This re-mounting of Sydney Theatre Company’s production for the Adelaide Festival has been helped over the line by State Theatre Company of South Australia. The original staging, directed by Festival Co-Artistic Director Neil Armfield was lauded for its majestic story-telling, outstanding acting and its engagement with a crucial, yet still rarely confronted side of Australian colonial history.

Grenville’s novel tells the tale of William Thornhill, a Thames river boatman from the slums of Southwark transported as a convict to New South Wales. Pardoned by Lachlan Macquarie, rather than return to a world that cast him out with no prospects,...