DIRECTOR Kyle J. Morrison is not your obvious hip-hop creator, confessing to be more at home listening to Electric Light Orchestra and Robbie Williams.
However, he has surrounded himself with maestros of the Perth hip-hop scene – Downsyde, Layla, Moana Mayatrix and Trooth – for Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company’s Ice Land: A Hip h’Opera.
“We’re making an opera with hip-hop, dealing with the subject matter of methamphetamines and our community struggle with it,” Morrison, of Maylands, said.
“It’s an issue only one or two degrees removed from every person in this state.”
“Our job in theatre isn’t to come up with the answers but to ask our society the questions it needs to hear.
“What I really want to ask society is ‘should we keep looking at this issue as a legal issue or as a health issue?’ because I really feel like treating sick people like criminals doesn’t help them get better.
“Unlike any other Aboriginal theatre company in Australia, Yirra Yaakin is absolutely invested and entwined with our whole community. WA is our community at Yirra Yaakin and we’re working hard to have a conversation.”
The work was devised through interviews with doctors and other emergency department staff, the Aboriginal Legal Service and six people at a rehabilitation centre in the early stages of recovery.
“They shared their ideas about the pain and trauma but also the ambition within it, giving us the sense of complete powerlessness that users have and the complete control dealers have as well,” Morrison said.
“Then we created three parable characters based around the shared experiences. These three characters have facets of the verbatim and testimonials given to us, but also created on the bodies of the actors and MCs that we’ve got.
“As much as I want readers to understand how urgent we feel this issue is, we’re also using a very vibrant, energetic and beautiful art form to have this conversation.”
Morrison said he had seen a lot of family and friends compromised by methamphetamines, losing control of their psychology, spirituality, generosity and humility.
“I’m very fortunate to have had theatre and the arts in my life or I can about 90 per cent guarantee that I’d probably be on meth or in prison,” Morrison said.
“That’s how important things like contemporary culture, theatre and hip-hop are; to hear that your culture is important and relevant because I didn’t hear that as a kid.
“Methamphetamines in my community is preying on the most unsure people in our society, which are Aboriginal people.
“We’ve been told we’re nothing all our lives and then all of a sudden methamphetamines gives you a false idea that you are something and you have this power.
“But it doesn’t matter what race, sex, class or religion you are, the second you’re under the control of methamphetamines, your life is not your choice anymore.”
Morrison said he thought society was about five years too late to be really dealing with this issue.
“Unlike alcohol where you can see the writing on the wall, I don’t think as a community we are aware just how disastrous and devastating this subject is,” he said.
“I’ve seen it absolutely destroy a lot of my community.
“Colonisation started the job, alcohol progressed it and I think meth will absolutely finish whatever culture and strength we have as a people and that’s really scary for me.”
What: Ice Land: A Hip h’Opera
Where: Subiaco Arts Centre
When: October 15 to 26