Hecate - Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company - Review

TL;DNR: An astounding production that should not be missed.

Macbeth is arguably Shakespeare's most recognisable play. A story of betrayal, murder, and revenge, it is a powerful icon of English culture.

But is that the only way of seeing it?

Eight years ago, director Kylie Bracknell [Kaarljilba Kaardn] and Kyle J Morrison had the idea of performing Macbeth in Noongar. Along the way they discovered parts of the play that resonated in unexpected ways, and resonance grew into the play that we saw last night.

Drawing on Noongar traditions as well as translating the play the director has transformed it from a tale of destruction to one of renewal. Of course, to renew, there has to be destruction, but that is no longer the point of the story. Macbeth becomes not a villain (although he is still villainous), but a tool. Just as the Noongar people use fire to renew the land, Macbeth becomes that fire, and is consumed by it. But the destruction of Macbeth is not the end of the story - there is regrowth after the fire, and a powerful promise for the future.

The play is performed entirely in Noongar (barring one very brief line, which results in the rest of the cast giving the speaker some very puzzled and strange looks - until they correct themselves), but the strength and emotiveness of the actors mean that even if you do not understand any of the language, the story is still clear. The program contains a handful of words in Noongar that are central to the play, and it is worth checking out.

There is also a smoking ceremony held before and after each performance, which serves as a cleansing - both for the audience and the actors, and further carries the message of renewal.

So, that is what it is all about. What about the performance?

The set is very simple - a sloping ground, with a ngaama (rock water hole) in the middle. Around the main stage is a half-shadow curtain, behind which various almost-off-stage events take place.

Into this we have the players, lead by the titular Hecate acting as the mother of the land, played with magnificent dignity by Della Rae Morrison. The traditional witches are replaced by a gaggle of mischief makers, acting at Hecate's direction to heal a sick land. Fleance (played with wonder and delight by Cezera Critti-Schnaars) becomes Banquo's daughter. Banquo himself is played by Rubeun Yorkshire, and is a joy to watch - doubly so after his murder. His performance as Banquo's Ghost is truly inspired. He also choreographed all the fight scenes - all of which are extraordinary, and doubly so as there are no props used.

Speaking of props, there are few - a candle, a crown, and a few leafy branches.

The murderers are played as comic figures - right up until they act - which makes their actions all the more horrific. Mark Nannup as the leader of the murderers is a terrible sight to behold. As he also plays Malcolm, the contrast between his characters is extraordinary. As Malcom, he is a noble figure - and a perfect reflection of Macbeth.

Macbeth is played by Maitland Schnaars, and he portrays him with a solid dignity, even as he is tortured by the consequences of his actions. Bobbi Henry's Lady Macbeth is a devoted and focused person, dedicated to her husband's advancement, no matter the cost, and this comes through with incredible passion.

Trevor Ryan as Duncan is a powerfully imposing figure - even as a ghost, while his murderer is initially a source of some wonderful visual comedy. Again, right up to the moment he strikes. The dichotomy has a powerful impact.

Ian Wilkes plays Macduff, who is solid and loyal, and then dramatically ripped apart by the death of his family, taking it out on Lennox (Kyle J Morrison) until he has his grief brought to focus by Malcolm.

Which brings us to Kyle J Morrison, co-instigator of the whole affair, and wonderfully silly (at first) as a murderer, and as Lennox a brave defender of Macbeth - up until the horror of what  has been done comes to light. 

All these performances come together to create a totally immersive space, you are truly engulfed by the story, and it is quite startling to reach the end of the tale.

10/10 and a funhouse mirror that makes you look better than you are on the Sid and Nancy scale.

For another, much better written review, go here: https://leecetheartist.dreamwidth.org/461434.html !

Hecate runs Tue - Fri 7.30pm | Sat 8 Feb 2pm | Sat 15 Feb 2pm & 7.30pm | Sun 6pm.
https://www.perthfestival.com.au/event/hecate/

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