Ian Wilkes says his blood meant performing with Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company was his destiny

Ian Wilkes. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d454028
Ian Wilkes. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d454028

IAN Wilkes was destined to perform with Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company; it is in his blood.

Several of his family members have an association with the Aboriginal performing arts organisation, which was founded in 1993, and it was his great-uncle Jack Davis who wrote Honey Spot, the first Yirra Yaakin production Wilkes was in.

“We toured to Sydney Opera House with that one,” Wilkes said.

“It was a beautiful play about the coming together of two races through Noongar dance and ballet.”

The 26-year-old has since toured in children’s show Good Lovin’ and been in the two-part Dreamtime stories series Kaarla Kaatijin and Kep Kaatijin, meaning fire and water.

He will direct the third part of the series, Boodja Kaatijin, meaning earth, later this year.

For now, Wilkes is focused on So Long Suckers which will be at Subiaco Arts Centre from May 26 to June 4.

The WAAPA Aboriginal theatre course graduate is a co-collaborator in the production exploring the destructive effects of alcoholism in indigenous and non-indigenous communities.

Peter Docker and Emmanuel James Brown also worked on the show and all three will perform under the direction of Kyle J Morrison.

“We did the first development up in Broome,” Wilkes said.

“We went up, told stories and had a yarn around a table.

“We thought about what we could do with these stories between a white Australian, a Kimberley man and a Noongar man living in the city; So Long Suckers came from that.”

The result is a challenging performance combining physical theatre, live music and storytelling where each actor has a connection to the spirit of a headless hero: Yagan, Ned Kelly and Jandamarra.

“I’m also one of the Three Wise Men, although we keep that quite ambiguous and don’t get fully religious with it,” Wilkes said.

“And my goanna totem comes back every now and then through my movement and dance; it’s my physical presence.”

Wilkes said he wanted audiences to reflect on the type of world people lived in today with alcohol.

“We can’t escape this surrounding theme of alcoholism as much as we try,” he said.

“I think we’ve built this kind of prison which is very confusing and I love theatre that challenges my mind.

“It’s a very tricky show to watch and make sense of, but I hope audiences make sense of it in their own way.”

So Long Suckers is recommended for ages 15 years and older.


What: Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company – So Long Suckers

Where: Subiaco Arts Centre

When: May 26 to June 4

Tickets: www.ticketek.com.au