Review | ‘Hecate’ is a powerful and inspiring production

Hecate | Subiaco Arts Centre | Until 16 Feb | ★ ★ ★ ★  

Yirra Yaakin deliver a theatrical project that has been years in the making, decades, centuries and eons.

It’s a journey the company has been on close to a decade. An ambitious plan to present a play by Shakespeare completely in Noongar language. The production is bold, captivating and most importantly provoking and inspirational. 

Hecate is an interpretation of one of the Bard’s most famous plays Macbeth. This production is entirely in Noongar language, a world first.    

The character of Hecate is often omitted from productions of the play. The mistress of The Witches, she appears and complains that they have been dealing with Macbeth without her permission. Here she is presented front and centre, evening up the gender imbalance of the bloody tale.

With no surtitles, most of the audience were stripped of language, forcing us to appreciate a story told through sound, emotion, movement and costume. If your familiar with Macbeth, it’s easy to follow the well known plotline. If you’ve not seen the play before, it’s helpful to read the synopsis that’s provided.

There’s also the unusual experience of everyone who does speak the language breaking into cackles of laughter at moments of hilarity that sailed past the rest of the audience. Becoming the outsider, is a powerful and uneasy experience.

A talented cast of nine actors take on multiple roles. Della Rae Morrison presides over proceedings as Hecate, Maitland Schnaars is a captivating Macbeth, and the company’s former Artistic Director Kyle J Morrison is Lennox.

Trevor Ryan is wonderful as Duncan, especially when he turns to his ghostly form, Bobbi Henry takes on the part of Lady Macbeth and Reuben Yorkshire is Banquo.

The set is a expansive angled space that has openings into the earth, and it is transformed from one location to another through effective use of projections created by Zoe Atkinson. Clint Bracknell adds a soundtrack that encases the audience in a magical world.  

One of the most effective techniques is the use of sound by the performers, voice comes from within the audience, whispers are projected from off-stage, there are taps and bangs, and creaks that come from under the seats and behind your head. The result is an immersive effect that transports you into the story.

Director and Adaptor Kylie Bracknell [Kaarljilba Kaardn] and her team of collaborators, supporters, and instigators have created an intriguing theatrical provocation.

As someone who knows less than 20 words of Noongar, there were moments during the performance when my mind wandered, but it was an introspective journey about language, ancestry, family and connection to place. I know just as many words Gaelic as I do in Noongar, and not knowing either seems like a vast deficiency.

Mellow ponderings about language and history continue to bounce around in my mind in the following days. There’s an intriguing powerplay, Shakespeare, the playwright whose work has stood the test of time – centuries, seems insignificant to the achievement of a language and culture that dwarfs his meagre four hundred years.

Creating this production has been a mammoth task for all involved, but hopefully it’s just the first step on a long journey. For now I long to see it again, in a few years time, and I dream that I, and many others, will know more than 15 words the next time around.

See Hecate as part of the Perth Festival, tickets on sale now.

Graeme Watson is an editor at OUTinPerth. He has a background in writing, dance, theatre, radio and film working as a performer, producer and writer. He is a casual academic at ECU, and writes for a variety of publications. Graeme has been working as a reviewer since 1997.

Images: Dana Weeks

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,