The West Australian
Noongar Hecate speaks to all
Subiaco Arts Centre REVIEW BELLE TAYLOR
It says a lot about the almost total annihilation of a language that a play in that tongue, performed on the land on which it was once widely spoken, is so unusual.
And so there has been considerable excitement around Hecate, a Noongar language adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, adapted and directed by Kylie Bracknell.
It is part of the vision of Kyle Morrison, the former artistic director of indigenous theatre company Yirra Yaakin, to create a portfolio of Noongar language works to if not save, then at least preserve, a record of the language for future generations. However, not speaking Noongar language is no barrier to understanding or enjoying Hecate as a piece of theatre. Under Bracknell’s assured direction and with clever sound design and strong performances from an accomplished cast, Hecate is a brilliant, Australian, reimagining of the classic Shakespearean tale of greed, ambition, betrayal and madness. That said, it is strongly recommended you grab a program and read through the detailed synopsis before entering the theatre.
In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Hecate is a minor character, the queen of the witches, who arrives to chide the “weird sisters” for leaving her out of the loop. She is also often left out of productions of Macbeth altogether. But in Bracknell’s version, Hecate is front and centre. We are no longer in
Scotland but in this place — Noongar Boodjar. Hecate is a kind of spiritual guardian of the earth, who looks on as the men and women who inhabit the land destroy themselves through their own greed and ambition. As the Macbeths quickly descend into madness, the earth itself, a character in its own right, retaliates.
The ghost of Banquo rises from the earth to terrify Macbeth. The “Mischief Makers”,
(the witches) cover themselves with branches gathered from the ngarma hole to attack the pretender to the throne. As the Macbeths scheme and murder their way to power, an ominous fire grows ever closer. Hecate is perfectly paced, with the feelings of madness and simmering violence building throughout the performance. Macbeth is played by Maitland Schnaar s as a man out of his depth, nervous and unsure of the terrible deeds he is about to commit. He is propelled down his dark path by his ambitious wife, Lady Macbeth, who is played with a kind of girlish naivety by Bobbi Henry. Of particular note are the strong physical performances of Ian Wilkes, Mark Nannup and Kyle J Morrison. The act of violence between Wilkes as McDuff and Schnaars as Macbeth, is powerful. Ultimately, the humans destroy themselves.
Hecate, played with a noble dignity by Della Rae Morrison, breathes new life into the future of the lands which will continue on despite the folly of man. A play about the earth retaliating against the greed and ambition of man, performed in the language of the original inhabitants of this land, a language that has been all but destroyed by the greed and ambition of colonisers, makes for powerful theatre.
At the end, people wiped away tears and cheered for a production that told an old story of an ancient land but at every step felt bitingly relevant.
‘An Australian, reimagining of the classic Shakespearean tale of betrayal.’
Hecate runs until Saturday. Ticket information at perthfestival.com.au.