Photos - Heidrun Lohr
“In a post-apology world the need to tell these stories has not evaporated,” says Wesley Enoch, director of Yibiyung.
Simply stated through the eyes of a young girl, this coming of age story of Yibiyung is part of the history most of Australia has come to accept.
Dallas Winmar wrote Yibiyung, a factual dramatisation, about her own nan. With letters sourced from the State Record Office of Western Australia, we are given an uncomfortable reminder of how so many children were cruelly kept away from their families and forced into domestic care with very little, if any, income.
Miranda Tapsell is the beautiful, young actress playing Yibiyung. She delicately balances an air of innocence with a strength that bores into your heart. Playing Yibiyung as a five year-old, Tapsell exudes childhood effervescence allowing us to enter her world: living off the land, learning Noongar – her mother’s tongue, and hearing stories from her konkan (uncle) about the importance of family and looking out for each other.
The extraction of many Aboriginal children from their families was a legal requirement after the introduction of the Aborigines Act (WA) in 1905 – the Chief Protector becoming the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and ‘half-caste’ child under the age of sixteen.
Yibiyung delicately navigates a linear path through the early years of a purposeful Aboriginal girl in turn-of-the-century, colonial Australia. She takes us barefoot through linguistic lore and childhood freedom to an adulthood that, in the eyes of the state, is educated and fit for servitude. It is hard, if not impossible, to remain unemotional in this intimate story that portrays a reality that affected a much larger portion of our population. But don’t think Yibiyung is a dismal tale – the sorrow is more than balanced with the joy of childhood and the satisfaction of realising ones dreams.
David Page’s konkan, Yibiyung’s uncle, is magnificently sympathetic and Jimi Bani exerts himself as the adorably awkward and enthusiastic child, Smiley. And Melodie Reynolds is fascinating to watch as Djindi with her uncanny gift for toeing the line between oppressed and innocently joyful.
The dazzling set by Jacob Nash is sparse and keeps close to the form-follows-function design mantra. It captures the immense vastness and magic of the outback yet, with the flick of a curtain, transports us to the sterile and closed quarters of the upper middle class, family kitchen.
This is a simple story with few twists or unexpected turns, but it hits to the heart of our past and of the Yibiyung audience. An unfurling of beauty and horror.
Company B presents
by Dallas Winmar
Venue: Belvoir St Theatre | 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills
Dates: 18 September – 26 October
Times: Tuesday 6.30pm, Wednesday to Friday 8pm, Saturday 2pm & 8pm, Sunday 5pm.
Tickets: Full $54. Seniors (excluding Fri/Sat evenings) and Groups 10+ $45. Concession $33.
Student Rush $25 for Tuesday 6.30pm and Saturday 2pm, available from 10am on the day (subject to availability)
Bookings: 9699 3444 or www.belvoir.com.au