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Maitland Schnaars shares why he wanted to bring ‘Brothers Wreck’ to Perth audiences

Maitland Schnaars took over as Artistic Director of Yirra Yaakin in 2023, but this year’s season is the first one he’s programmed. In a new chat with OUTinPerth he shares why staging a production of Jada Alberts’ Brothers Wreck was high on his list of goals.

The story of a family struggling with grief was first staged at Sydney’s Belvoir Theatre in 2014 and has gone on to be performed by several different companies over the last decade.

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Maitland Schnaars spoke to Graeme Watson about his selections for the companies 2024 program and how Brothers Wreck was going in rehearsal.


Warning: This story has comments which might be distressing to some readers. For 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.


Schnaars said in many ways selecting which works went into the 2024 program was a straight-forward process. He was impressed by the play Operation Boomerang which had been developed in the company’s Yirra Yarns program that supports emerging writers. It will have its debut in October.

For the season opener he really wanted a play that could be taken on by a cast of early career artists, and the play Songbird that had previously has a season at The Blue Room several years ago, was a work that had stuck with him, and he thought deserved a second staging.

Jada Alberts work was one that he’d first come across when daughter Cezera Critti-Schnaars was studying Aboriginal Theatre at the WA Academy of Performing Arts and she was involved a workshop presentation of the play.

“I saw it and I liked it straight away because it explores themes which are quite personal to me and really relevant to society. I thought the script was really well written. I knew this would be our mainstage production in the middle of the year because the depth of the piece always stuck with me.” Schnaars said.

The Artistic Director says that while the play was written in an east coast community, it has a relevance that makes the story equally engaging in Western Australia.

“Us mob over here, we’re different from the fellas over east. Not better or worse, just different.

“For me Brothers Wreck explores a universal theme. It explores suicide and how we get through trauma and loss. They’re universal these, in this case it’s looking through Aboriginal eyes.”

For Maitland Schnaars created an opportunity for creating conversations and discussion about suicide is incredibly important.

“Suicide – the numbers are not going down. They’re going up across the board. The rates in LGBTIQA+ community are higher, and the rates in Indigenous communities are at least twice as high as in non-Indigenous communities.

“The role of theatre for me, and this is why I love theatre. Only theatre can change the world for the better. And it’s not just theatre – it’s all of the arts, its music, its written works, its visual arts. Only the arts can hold up a mirror to society and make it look at its self – and hopefully change for the better. Sport can’t do that, only the arts hold a mirror up to society.

For Albert’s play, which focuses on a family dealing with the grief of suicide, Schnaars has assembled an impressive cast of creatives.

Tyren Maclou who delivered an impressive performance in Songbird just a few months ago is among the cast, as is respected actors Della Rae Morrison, Mark Nannup, Jessie Ward and Rubeun Yorkshire.

The sets and costumes are being created by Bryam Woltjen, Mark Howett is doing lighting and Rachael Dease will deliver the sound design while composing music for the piece too.

“I didn’t audition people” Schnaars shared. “I knew I had to get a team of actors who I knew would work well together. They had to be people who would support each other, because when you’re doing heavy material like this you need supportive people to allow the actors to go where they need to go, to do what they need to do.

“You have to create a space where the actor is feeling really feel safe and comfortable to be vulnerable. They need to trust you, but they also need to trust each other. I needed a group of actors that I knew automatically will be fine.”

Schnaars said people should not be put off by the play’s serious content, noting something that playwright Jada Alberts had said, describing it as play about life.

“It does end on a positive note, I don’t like plays that don’t.” he said. “I like plays, where even though the bulk of it might be dark and heavy, by the end of it, they leave you with a sense of hope. It’s also got quite a few moments of humour and as a director I lean into those.

“There’s so really quite funny and tender moments as well – it’s not all doom and gloom.

“It is a story about a family, gathering round to help and support each other, and one of the members in particular. And I think that’s a nice thing to say on stage, because during most of the time, it’s our family, it helps us get through stuff.” Schnaars said of the play.

Brothers Wreck plays from 5-20 July at Subiaco Arts Centre. Tickets are on sale now.


Do you need some support?

If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, support and counselling are available from:

QLife: 1800 184 527 / qlife.org.au (Webchat 3pm – midnight)
QLife are a counselling and referral service for LGBTQIA+ people.

DISCHARGEDinfo@discharged.asn.au / discharged.asn.au
Discharged is a trans-led support service with peer support groups for trans and gender diverse folks.

Lifeline: 13 11 14 / lifeline.org.au

Beyondblue: 1300 22 4636 / www.beyondblue.org.au

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