Several months ago, I interviewed Artistic Director Kyle Morrison about the first show Yirra Yaakin was presenting for 2016, and I was absolutely fascinated by what he had planned for So Long Suckers. He described an enticing mix of cross-cultural symbols and stories mixed with dance and text. It was still in development, and I wondered to myself just how he would make it all come together cohesively, trusting in Morrison’s abilities as a director, and curious to see the results. So Long Suckers met and exceeded all of my expectations.
Set in an absurd, hallucinatory world contained within a space surrounded by dangling chains, three men emerge from the shadows covered in white paint, each wearing different colored braces over white button-downs and black trousers. I wouldn’t say they introduce themselves to each other, as that sounds rather more organised than how it plays out, but they reach into their memories and pull out what they can of their identities and where they have come from; they try to collectively figure out why they’ve found themselves together in this place, this jail.
This is essentially the central action of So Long Suckers; these three actors, (Three Kings, Three Stooges, Three Wise Men, three headless heroes) re-emerge from a grog-induced fog with fuzzy memories swimming around in their heads of past events, things they heard, conversations they were having recently or had a long time ago. Quite simply put, this process is both funny and sad, and it’s what makes So Long Suckers such a great piece of theatre.
So Long Suckers brings together stories from the land, stories of run-ins with the police, encounters with animals and spirits. It draws on Australian history by incorporating the stories of Jandamarra, Ned Kelly and Yagan. It fuses together Bunuba, Noongar and wadjella perspectives, and gives us something uniquely Australian; it’s conscious of its history and heritage and points towards a rebuilding or strengthening of Indigenous identity.
We audience are quickly drawn into this absurdist world that the company of artists has created; Emmanuel James Brown, Peter Docker and Ian Wilkes form a delightful trio of clowns, full of pathos, warmth and humour, India Mehta’s set design is ingenious and full of meaning, Dalisa Pigram’s choreography and movement adds yet another powerful level to the storytelling, and Darren Reutens’s sound is integral to the action. There is not one element of this production that could be deemed a weak link.
Morrison in his notes mentions that he wanted to create a “story about the detrimental effects of alcohol without it becoming a ‘lesson’” and he has genuinely succeeded in this pursuit. We never feel talked down to, and we are all in on the process of self-discovery that the performers undergo. The melding of cultural references works wonderfully, and there are several motifs that carry the pieces themes through to the end. It’s a story that entertains and hits home because we can all relate in some measure, no matter what community we come from, no matter what our walk of life.
The only disappointment is that its run at Subiaco Arts Centre ended so soon.
Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company presents
So Long Suckers
by Peter Docker in collaboration with Emmanuel James Brown, Ian Wilkes and Kyle J Morrison
Directed by Kyle J Morrison
Venue: Subiaco Arts Centre, 180 Hamersley Road, Subiaco, Perth
Dates: 26 May – 4 June 2016
Tickets: $25 – $32.50