Yirra Yaakin’s latest production of King Hit by David Milroy and Geoffrey Narkle opens on September 18 at the courtyard of the State Theatre Centre of WA. King Hit was first produced by Yirra Yaakin in 1997, was remounted and toured in 1998, and then produced again in 2004. Director Kyle Morrison speaks with us about his current production this important play that has a significance for both WA theatre and WA Aboriginal history.
To begin, why don’t you tell us a bit about your cast?
Clarence Ryan is playing Geoffrey Narkle, the Barker Bulldog. This is his first time performing for the stage, but I’ve known him for 20-odd years in the film and television industry, and I can honestly say he’s one of the best actors I’ve worked with.
Then we have two Noongar actors, Karla Hart and Maitland Schnaars, who are both graduates of WAAPA’s Aboriginal Theatre course. We are lucky to have Noongar actors to help interpret these characters that are very recognisable to our families. It’s interesting to see how well we can bring our families, our mob, to life on stage.
And we also have Benj D’Addario, a stalwart of Perth theatre, who is playing a multitude of characters. They’re all playing six or seven characters, apart from Clarence, but he’s got all the monologues.
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HERE IS THE REST OF THE INTERVIEW:
But he has to play different versions of that character…
Absolutely, the beautiful child with wonder in his eyes, and then the jaded adult who’s been messed over by the apartheid regime that West Australia has been through over the last 50 years. It’s kind of a tough play with heavy and heart-wrenching moments. We balance that with a lot of energy around the fight scenes and the humour.
You’ve grown up with King Hit, haven’t you?
When I was 17 and fresh out of WAAPA’s Aboriginal Theatre course, first professional acting gig was King Hit, playing Geoffrey in the 1998 remounting of it.
Touring around with that play and getting a sense of the importance of a story like this for WA audiences really solidified theatre as a craft that I could work on. I believe in the importance of storytelling. If we can’t hear each other’s stories, we can’t understand each other’s paths, so theatre is the best device for that. This show keeps reaffirming the importance of theatre for me.
So what made you want to do it again now?
It’s been 17 years since it was first done, and I don’t think we’ve moved that far in the country in that time. We’re still seeing the effects of the Stolen Generations since the 40s and 50s. This play is going to be relevant until we’ve really reconciled the history of Australia honestly. In South Africa they call it Truth and Reconciliation, in Australia we call it Reconciliation because we don’t want to tell the truth.
King Hit is a really good way of giving people an insight into the Stolen Generations through a single individual. Once we get a sense of one journey, we can look at the whole picture and go, wow, we have a long way to go, we really do.
As the director, is your version of the play quite different from its previous incarnations?
Well, a little bit, but with playwright David Milroy’s blessing and [Geoffrey Narkle’s] family’s blessing I was able to dramaturg some of the sections to suit the style that I’m going for. I like to be able to inject a new idea or thought into it, so we’re taking a contemporary look at the play, but we’re keeping to the heart of it as Milroy intended.