Reach for the stars

MONKEY magic, Aboriginal spirituality and a space station crashing near Esperance form a bewildering whole in Skylab.

The play is the first co-production between Indigenous theatre company Yirra Yaakin and Black Swan, and the first play written by WAAPA graduate Melodie Reynolds-Diarra.

Skylab follows Aboriginal couple Nev (Alan Little) and Jem (Laila Rind), who live in a rundown house and struggle to feed their children.

Nev is owed a wad of backpay by his white boss, and Uncle Harvey, powerfully played by Gary Cooper, continually rants about the past treatment of Aborigines, amid conspiracy theories that NASA space station Skylab will suck their brains out.

• Gary Gooper and Liani Dalgetty, who’s part of the touring cast, in Skylab. Photos by Dana Weeks

At one point he prophetically warns the family “to be careful what you wish for”.

The story trundles along until Skylab explodes overhead in a cacophony of sound and light that shakes Matthew McVeigh’s set to its foundations.

• Donnathia Gentle, Alan Gentle, Jacob Narkle and Eva Barlett.

When the dust settles, the white folk (never seen on stage) start acting strangely and all the family’s wishes come true.

Nev is paid all the money he is owed and Jem’s wish results in a fridge full of food and French champagne.

The kids become the characters of their favourite TV show Monkey, flying on a cloud, and Nev and Jem get married in a Hawaii/Las Vegas ceremony.

Director Kyle J Morrison gets the best out of the youngsters, played by Eva Barlett, Donnathia Gentle and Jacob Narkle, who get plenty of chuckles from the audience.

It’s soon raining money, and lolling on banana lounges, Nev and Jem have been corrupted by their new-found wealth.

• Benjamin Narkle, Juliette Laylan and Liani Dalgetty.

Nan (Rayma McGrath), a wise Aboriginal elder, turns into Buddha and warns the children that the world is what people create with their thoughts.

It’s all very Dadaesque, with metaphors coming thick and fast, including a reference to Henny Penny’s “the sky is falling” and fake news.

Days later my friend and I were still wondering, “What was with the pink pony called Kitty?”

Skylab is on at the State Theatre (Studio Underground) until September 2.

There’s a mini-Skylab exhibition in the foyer, including pieces of the craft found near Esperance.


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