#SheReviews Blackbox Musical – Ruth Greening

May 16, 2024

It takes creative courage and a clever mind to write and produce a musical such as Black Box. Written around the invention of the black box flight recorder, a device the aviation industry relies on worldwide. Thanks and full credit to Queenslander Paul Hodge for this ground-breaking new musical and to director David Berthold. 

Paul said he discovered David’s invention was inspired by his love of music. “I wanted to create a theatre form that was as inventive as David’s idea, which led to the use of recorded voices and music, in the same way the black box gives recordings, to immerse the audience in David’s sound world.”

This capturing production is based on the extraordinary insightful true story of David Warren, the Australian inventor who created the black box that is now on every plane around the globe. 

I  heard once that an Australian was behind the invention of the aeroplane black box recorder and knew little about the story.  If it wasn’t for the special invitation to the world premiere of this Australian musical Black Box, I may have, sadly, been ignorant of a story that all Aussies should be aware and proud of. 

The Story

Driven by the death of his father in an unexplained plane crash when he was eight, Black Box follows David as he fights for an invention that could record the final moments and conversations of a flight before it crashes; the blackbox. 

In 1954 Dr David Warren first came up with the idea of a device that would record both flight data and voices, as well as other sounds in the aircraft cockpits, immediately before a crash. His obsession with this invention placed his career, marriage and mind at risk. His plight highlights powerful emotions of heartache, frustration and sacrifice to achieve an outcome that potentially would save lives. 

It wasn’t until the 1960s’s the recorder was produced commercially by S.Davall & Son, housed in an egg-shaped casing that was painted red. The term black box arose during WWII as slang for sensitive aircraft components that were encased in black metal devices and was applied to David Warren’s device. 

It’s a show about memory, and how we hold onto, and let go of, those we love. The most powerful and positive message is one of hope and belief in your dreams. 

The Production

Black Box is unique in its presentation, including every audience member required to wear comfortable cockpit headsets throughout the performance. 

There may have been only two actors on stage but we quickly became absorbed in their dramatic performances and powerful voices. 

Internationally renowned singer/actor Micheal Cormack ( had leading roles including Phantom of the Opera and Beauty and the Beast) played the role of David and Helen Dallimore (Helpmann Award winner, West End production of Wicked and toured the UK) as Ruth, David’s wife. 

Through the headsets, we experienced the binaural sound of voices from other actors telling their tales and speaking to David. The effect was captivating and created a real-life atmosphere, connecting us with the characters that shaped David Warren’s story. 

The recorded cast of voices included the star of Wentworth, Neighbours and Home and Away, Bernard Curry and features Hugh Parker, Bryan Probets (who voices David’s father), Liz Buchanan, and Taylah Johns. Some of whom were in attendance at the premiere. 

Our very own Dami Im was also present. Her song A New Era is featured in the production and Dami will also be releasing it as a single. 

After the show, patrons commented on how wonderful it was seeing live footage of David Warren in action and commented on his invention. It completed the production perfectly.

David’s life is intriguing, and the Black Box musical ignites my desire to find out more about him.

This musical is an absolute must-see. You may not know his name but he may have saved your life!

In Memory

It was lovely to hear that David was recognised for his achievements before he passed away. I will also be keeping watch when I next fly on an Airbus. In 2008 Qantas named one of their Airbus A380’s after Warren in honour of his services to aviation.

On 19 July 2020, David Warren died in Melbourne aged 85. His loyal wife Ruth Warren died peacefully in Melbourne on 20 October 2013. 

Like the black box itself, Black Box the Musical may be small in size yet powerful in design.

Brisbane season: 10 – 19 May 2024 

Cremorne Theatre –  QPAC Bookings

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