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Reviews/Theatre

Digging into the FIFO dream

19 October 2020

Returning to the stage for the first time since the pandemic, Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company has teamed up with Goolarri Media Enterprises to present a new work that provides us all an opportunity to reflect on the way we live our lives, says Barbara Hostalek.

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FIFO – Fit in or F**k Off, Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company and Goolarri Media Enterprises ·
Subiaco Arts Centre, 15 October 2020 ·
Review by Barbara Hostalek ·

In the eye-catchingly titled FIFO – Fit in or F**k Off, new West Australian playwright Melody Dia provides multiple perspectives into the life and relationships of Aboriginal people working in and out of the mining industry, and the unsustainable sacrifices required to live well and with purpose.

A proud Nyul Nyul woman with Indonesian, Indian and European heritage, Dia has written a clever and surprising script. Using code switching and well timed Yawaru (language group of Broome), her animated characters are portrayed as having big eyes and big bellies, chasing the big bucks or big drugs as an indicator of living well. What a joy – seeing Aboriginal characters defying the stereotype; working hard, turning up on time, sticking to the routine and wearing high vis jackets! They are indistinguishable from others.

But watch out: things aren’t as they first seem in Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company’s first production since theatres locked down across the world.

Marlanie Haerewa plays the highly energetic Janey (top) while Bobbi Henry (bottom) plays the sociable but lonely Mary. Photo Dana Weeks

The cast is rock solid under the expert direction of Yirra Yaakin’s Eva Grace Mullaley. Debuting with Yirra Yaakin and Goolarri Media Enterprises, Marlanie Haerewa plays a highly energetic comedian and memorable younger sister Janey, whilst her very social but lonely, older sister Mary is brought to life by a consistently proud and precise Bobbi Henry. Mary’s husband Jono is portrayed by Trevor Ryan who delivers a powerhouse performance as a mine-site supervisor, hardworking FIFO husband, who ensures everyone follows the occupational health and safety rules.

Dia’s work speaks straight from the heart, yet with subtlety, about the complex relationship experienced by many Aboriginal people whose cultural values conflict with business structures and the demands of consumeristic and materialistic way of living. As the characters avoid and then grapple with the concepts of country as the source of life (the land owns us, not the other way around), and the inherent cultural responsibility to care for country, we struggle with them too. The play also holds space to ponder the value of work in life and to consider the difference between needs and wants.

In combination with lighting by Peter Young, Neil Sheriff’s set design provides subtle changes to the landscape, honouring the North’s beautiful hues: orange and red rock angles, aquamarine for water and blue sky, with sound design by Ella Portwine to tip your hard hat too.

FIFO’s premiere is a celebration of collaboration: allowing a writer from Broome’s Goolarri’s Indigenous Writers’ program to do a swing on Noongar Boodjar and back up to Broome the land of the Yawaru traditional owners.

FIFO offers a golden opportunity to reflect on your own Liyan (wellbeing in Yawaru language) and way of living with the country and each other, for the better.

FIFO runs at Subiaco Arts Centre until 31 October, and then tours to Broome 29-31 October.

Pictured top is Trevor Ryan (foreground) with Bobbi Henry and Marlanie Haerewa. Photo: Dana Weeks.

In combination with lighting by Peter Young, Neil Sheriff’s set design provides subtle changes to the landscape, honouring the North’s beautiful hues. Pictured are Bobbi Henry and Trevor Ryan. Photo: Dana Weeks
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