Reviews/Perth Festival/Theatre

All hail the new order

12 February 2020

Jan Hallam says Hecate, Yirra Yaakin’s Noongar interpretation of Macbeth, is a breathtaking achievement.

Review: Perth Festival, Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company, Hecate ·
Subiaco Arts Centre, 11 February 2020 ·
Review by Jan Hallam ·

The star of this show is indisputably language, Noongar language. What a special thing it is. It is rooted in the boodjar (country) we live on, the birds that chronicle the days in their song, and human existence in all its glorious and shameful colours.

Laced through the dramatic constructs of Shakespeare’s ode to political megalomania, Macbeth – renamed Hecate by Yirra Yaakin’s production – it flows like water over the rapids at Walyunga.

The project to thrust a fragile, ancient language into the realms of translation and Western dramaturgy is a breathtaking achievement and one that speaks volumes of a community’s determination not only to keep the language’s heart beating, but also to ready it for a new era of empowered relevance. This boodjar and all its people desperately need it.

So, is this production of a beacon of the “Western canon” political? You bet it is.

Director Kylie Bracknell (Kaarlijilba Kaardn) doesn’t take a backwards step. Indeed, Macbeth, the power-frenzied old guy, is out of the spotlight, while Hecate, the goddess of light, wisdom, crossroads, a little bit of magic, has centre stage.


I am not a fan of Macbeth. It is oft argued that it is a complex vision of human nature. Kate Mulvany, a phenomenal theatre thinker and performer, is dramaturg on this production and sees revelation in the original play as every layer is peeled back, like an onion.

It seems as if history is repeating itself: greed, ambition, the sexual allure of power, on and on it goes until the last man standing. Shakespeare doesn’t offer any hope of that cycle being ruptured, and perhaps the world has proved him right. But is that all there is? This production says no. After the body count, it offers the hope of a new beginning.

Hecate (mystically and ethereally portrayed by Della Rae Morrison) sings souls around the stage. Spreads an aegis over the innocent, sends out the mischief makers to disrupt. It is the feminisation of the masculine model that has the old guys worried, with good cause. It is a masterful interpretation that could just bring this reviewer in from the cold.

The three mischief makers are played by, from left, Kyle J. Morrison, Mark Nannup and Ian Wilkes. Photo: Dana Weeks

Bracknell has had many collaborators on this production, in particular Kyle J. Morrison, whose performance in multiple roles is incandescent. He leads the pack of three lithe lads – Mark Nannup and Ian Wilkes play the other mischief makers – bringing chaos and energy to the stage as they dance around the courtly performances of the kings and kings in murderous waiting.

Maitland Schnaars’ Macbeth appears bewildered at the speed of events and never quite convinced that murder is a good course of action. The confidence and allure of Lady Macbeth (Bobbi Henry) help him over the line. Trevor Ryan’s Duncan is equally stately, only to find that in death, his ghost is liberated to cause some chaos of his own.

Rubeun Yorkshire as Banquo and Cezera Critti-Schnaars as Banquo’s child, Fleance, are wonderful. Yorkshire gives a soulful rendering of Macbeth’s most loyal of generals. He pays for that loyalty with his life, but director Bracknell hardly lets him leave the stage. He pops up to strike a metaphoric dagger into Macbeth as often as he can! And Critti-Schnaars (in multiple roles) embodies the birds, that are so evocative in Clint Bracknell’s soundscape.

Clint Bracknell is also composer, musical director and sound designer, working in complete harmony with Zoe Atkinson’s set design: we are in the bush, complete with water hole, gum trees and birdsong.

For me, the crowning moment of the play is the uncrowning of the heir, Malcolm (Nannup), who refuses to wear the crown as it is offered to him. Instead, Hecate crowns Fleance.

All hail the new order.

Hecate continues until 16 February 2020.

Pictured top: Hecate (Della Rae Morrison) in the bush (Burnham Wood). Photo: Dana Weeks

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Author —
Jan Hallam

Jan Hallam has been watching theatre for a living for the past 30 years. Working for both The West Australian and The Sunday Times, she has been lucky to have experienced just how diverse and talented the Perth arts scene is. When she’s not sitting in the dark, she’s staring at the light of a computer screen as editor and journalist. She’s the queen of the sandpit castle.

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