INTERVIEW: Q & A with Ian Wilkes | Hobo

Image supplied
Maitland Schnaars (L) and James Hagan (R) Image by Rob Fischer

The excellent Ian Wilkes is back in the director’s chair for the reprisal of James Taylor‘s Hobo at The Blue Room TheatreHobo originally ran in the early part of The Blue Room’s Summer Nights season this year, and is being brought back this month, opening during NAIDOC weekHobo features Maitland Schnaars, James Hagan and James Taylor, and is supported by Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company through their Next Step program. Wilkes takes a moment to tell us a bit more about the show and his creative life.

Ian Wilkes headshot
Ian Wilkes

Is this your second collaboration with Hobo writer James Taylor? What’s the working relationship between you two like?

Yes, the first time we worked together I was directing and James acting in the show Songbird this time last year at the Blue Room for the NAIDOC period. I think we have connected quite well over the last year.  I now understand more about how JT works as a writer and I think we both share an enthusiasm in how we want Hobo to be told and seen by audiences.

How have you approached this work that was already produced and directed earlier this year? Did you have any ideas going into the project of how you could put your own stamp on it?

Absolutely! I remember watching the first production of Hobo and really saw the amount of potential it had. I found myself thinking about what I would have done differently and what I could do to add more to this great story. So when JT asked me to direct I immediately accepted.

Are changes to the script developing in rehearsal? What aspects of this production will be different from the original run at The Blue Room Summer Nights in February?

The script has definitely grown in rehearsals. It flows much better and I think JT is happy with the changes we have made not just with my influence but as a team and ensemble. My ideas on the show are quite powerful, I have really drawn out the eerie magical presence of each character. I have used my skills as a dancer and also with help of the amazing designers given life to the alleyway in which the play is set.

What particular themes and ideas most interest you in Hobo and why?

As an aboriginal man I always feel a deep sense of sadness when I see our people homeless and drunk, so the two main ideas that resonate with me are alcoholism and homelessness and how this affects our community as a whole. There are a lot more meaningful themes that Hobo holds and I will leave it up to the audience to find them.

Do you think that theatre is an agent for social change? How does the work that you do as an artist impact on the community?

I really think that theatre has the power to change our society in some ways but I believe that here in Perth we must do a lot more. Our stories and artistic work must challenge other people’s minds and perception on what they believe our world to be. I hope my work does this for everyone and not just the indigenous community.

How has being under the wings of WAAPA’s Aboriginal Performance program and Yirra Yaakin impacted on you as a person and artist?

I honestly know that being involved in the WAAPA course changed my life forever, I met my partner at the course and we now have a child together so it has definitely changed me as a person. Artistically, being involved with Yirra Yaakin I feel I have gained so much knowledge and skills, starting as a young actor and now moving towards directing.

Being a multi-skilled artist as you are, do you see yourself choosing a particular creative path, such as directing, over another? Or will you always seek out variety in your career?

I will always be a dancer first, I love my culture and Noongar dancing has always been a big part of my life from the moment I could walk. As for everything else, I think I am still in between. I still enjoy acting and music but I really feel I am looking to do more directing in the future.


Hobo runs at The Blue Room from July 5 – 16, part of City of Perth’s Winter Arts Festival. For tickets and more information, visit The Blue Room website here.