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Yirra Yaakin’s ‘Songbird’ showcases phenomenal acting talent

Yirra Yaakin’s 2024 season is under way with the dramatic but engaging play Songbird.

Shakara Walley penned this three-hander about growing up in small town, and under the direction of Cezera Critti-Schnaars three amazing young actors get the chance to deliver engaging and emotionally diverse performances.

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Recent NIDA graduate Owen Hasluck plays Leon, a young man returning to the small town where he grew up after a few years of living in the city.

In the local pub he finds former love Brooke portrayed by Kira Feeney. She’s playing guitar and singing the song’s she’s written about he life.

While the two used to be close, there’s clearly a distance between them now, but as they catch up they recall their teenage years when everything seemed possible and alongside Brooke’s brother Mike they had endless adventures.

Tryen (Tre) Maclou is the third cast member, endearingly playing Mike in a series of flashback scenes. All three actors are entirely captivating.

There are moments in this story when the pace suddenly changes, emotions suddenly burst over, fast than water can come to the boil.

There are also moments when the characters stand side-by-side talking to each other while staring our into the audience, which evokes the blocking of a midafternoon soap opera. But flying high over these qualms are performances bursting with life that shine through.

Shakara Walley’s script effectively captures the vibe of small towns and close communities where everybody knows everyone else’s business, and events in your personal life can be put under a magnifying glass, if not by neighbours, by ourselves.

The production is a testament to Yirra Yaakin’s commitment to developing new talent and providing pathways for new voices. Impressively all of the key cast and crew are under 27 years old.

Feeney, Hasluck and Maclou are very impressive, and this may prove to be one of those moments where in years to come you’ll be able to say “I saw them way back when..”

Songbird made its debut at The Blue Room in 2015. Director Cezera Critti-Schnaars has spoken about being taken along to rehearsals for that production when she was on work experience with Yirra Yaakin almost a decade ago.

I have to be honest, nine years later I have no recollection of it at all, despite having reviewed it at the time.

As the audience took their bows last night a friend leaned over and asked me my thoughts. I said it was a tad melodramatic in places. Discovering I’d actually seen this play when it made its debut, I quickly scanned over my thoughts from the original production, I’d called it momentarily melodramatic then too.

It is brilliant though to see a local play being revived! Each year we have a stream of locally written shows, over the decades hundreds of amazing plays have been written, produced, performed and then just left us with the memories (or in the case of me seeing the original staging of this play – no memory).

We should restage works more often, there’s many lost classics to be revisited, reinterpreted and reinvigorated.

Songbird is at the Subiaco Arts Centre until 4th May, before touring to Carnarvon, Roebourne, Exmouth, Harvey, Merriden, Albany and Bunbury.

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