Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

LEGENDARY West Australian figure CY O’Connor is being put on trial this May – in a play that re-imagines his tragic end.

The Trial of CY O’Connor is written by AG Evans, author of the biography CY O’Connor: His Life and Legacy, and being staged by ARENAarts at the Latvian Centre in Belmont with a special one-off performance at the Fremantle Workers’ Club for the Fremantle Heritage Festival.

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

But 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.

The play imagines a different ending, played out in a courtroom, where O’Connor is put on trial to answer the accusations levelled at him during his lifetime and beyond.

Director Peter 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 practicing lawyer, the idea of testing the story in a courtroom environment was irresistible to me.”

Nettleton has more than 30 years’ experience as an actor and director, first joining KADS and Marloo Theatres in the 1980s before setting up his own comedy cabaret troupe known as the ACME Theatre Company.

Moving from the Hills to Fremantle, he joined Mosman Park Little Theatre, then Melville and Harbour Theatres where he began directing and went on to work with Phoenix Theatre and Theatre Kimberley in Broome.

More recently, Nettleton has appeared in shows with the Graduate Dramatic Society, Garrick Theatre and at the Blue Room Theatre.

In 2013, he was named best director at the Hills Festival of Theatre and Dramafest, the annual state drama festival, for his production of The Bald Prima Donna.

With The Trial of CY O’Connor, Nettleton believe his biggest challenge is the courtroom setting.

“It makes for a fairly static play,” he said. “To keep the audience engaged, I am going to have to bring out the drama through the characterisations.”

The Trial of CY O’Connor plays at the Fremantle Workers’ Club at 8pm, May 10, and the Latvian Centre at 8pm May 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, 29, 30 and 31 with a 2pm matinee May 18.

Tickets for May 10 are $20 guests, $15 members – book on (08) 9335 1840 or [email protected].

Tickets for all other dates are $20, $16 concession or $15 each for groups of 10 or more – book on (08) 9497 5140 or at

The Fremantle Workers’ Club is at 9 Henry Street, Fremantle, and the Latvian Centre is located at 60 Cleaver Terrace, Belmont (off Belmont Avenue).



CYO’Connor: In a new spin on his life, CY O’Connor gets a chance to answer accusations levelled at him in a stage adaptation that puts him on trial.

O’Connor1: Tim Prosser, left, is CY O’Connor in The Trial of CY O’Connor with Norm Heath as the judge, Justin McAllister as John Forrest, Trish Theisinger as the defence counsel and Francesca Meehan as Kathleen O’Connor.

O’Connor2: 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), Justin McAllister   (John Forrest), Trish Theisinger  (defence counsel) and Francesca Meehan (Kathleen O'Connor).

O’Connor3: The Trial of CY O’Connor re-imagines the tragic end of CY O’Connor (Tim Prosser, left) with Dale Lovett (Andrew Forrest), Mario Piccoli   (Thomas Hodgson), Trish Theisinger   (defence counsel) and Caroline McDonnell (Mary Irvine).

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ARENAarts is an independent, West Australian, not-for-profit arts organisation producing and supporting such projects as professional co-op shows and community theatre, as well as theatre-for-schools productions.

Our work includes such things as Wyrd Sisters, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Santa's Space Christmas, Doctor Who: Hellblossom, Northanger Abbey and The Storykeeper.

We aim to provide creative opportunities in the arts to encourage the growth of local, grassroots arts projects and to create works to reach new and existing audiences.

Since 1988, we have produced more than 155 arts projects, which have had more than 4300 performances for an audience in excess of 1 million.

ARENAarts community theatre productions are completely run by volunteers, from the actors to the director, as well as everyone involved behind the scenes. The productions are held at a variety of venues all across the Perth metropolitan area. They are tremendous fun and a great way to learn skills and make friends. Great for those just starting out in the industry as well as seasoned performers.

ARENAarts co-op productions are the perfect opportunity for anyone wishing to put on a professional production but are in need of funding, set and props and/or mentorship.

ARENAarts theatre-for-schools program offers touring educational productions that cater for junior to upper primary children. Productions include the very successful The Storykeeper which is celebrating its 22nd anniversary this year.

Peter Nettleton
P: 0407 770 053


Charles Yelverton CY O’Connor history heritage stage performance play Fremantle Harbour Goldfields Water Supply Scheme what's on events WA Western Australia Belmont John Forrest Andrew Forrest ARENAarts



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