WA legend put on trial

The cast of The Trial of CY O’Connor Mario Piccoli (Thomas Hodgson), Dale James (prosecutor), Caroline McDonnell (Mary Irvine), Dale Lovett (Andrew Forrest), Tim Prosser (CY O’Connor), Norm Heath (judge), Bedford resident Justin McAllister (John Forrest), Trish Theisinger (defence counsel) and Francesca Meehan (Kathleen O'Connor).
The cast of The Trial of CY O’Connor Mario Piccoli (Thomas Hodgson), Dale James (prosecutor), Caroline McDonnell (Mary Irvine), Dale Lovett (Andrew Forrest), Tim Prosser (CY O’Connor), Norm Heath (judge), Bedford resident Justin McAllister (John Forrest), Trish Theisinger (defence counsel) and Francesca Meehan (Kathleen O'Connor).

The Trial of CY O’Connor, written by AG Evans and staged by ARENAarts, will showcase at the Latvian Centre in Belmont from Thursday, May 15 with a one-off performance at the Fremantle Workers’ Club on Saturday, May 10.

Irish-born CY O’Connor was famously responsible for building Fremantle Harbour and the Mundaring-to-Kalgoorlie pipeline, known as the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme.

On March 10, 1902, exhausted by over-work, libellous press criticism and lack of political support, he rode his horse into the ocean at South Beach and shot himself.

Directed by Peter Nettleton, the play imagines a different ending, played out in a courtroom, where O’Connor is on trial to answer the accusations levelled at him during his lifetime.

McAllister plays Sir John Forrest, someone he describes as ‘an affable, pompous old fool’.

‘He had visions of himself as the leading father of the Swan River Colony who single-handedly saved the colony’s fortunes,’ he said.

‘The challenge with Sir John is to bring the right level of jovial pomposity to the character and then be able to effortlessly change into a malevolent angry politician protecting his political legacy.’

Nettleton said the playwright had allowed him considerable liberty in bringing the dramatisation to life.

‘The CY O’Connor story is one of the most controversial but seldom told tragedies from WA colonial history,’ he said.

‘Being a history buff and also a practising lawyer, the idea of testing the story in a courtroom environment was irresistible to me.’