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CY O’Connor on trial: play puts new spin on WA figure’s life


Fri 23 May 2014, 8:00pm–10:30pm
Sat 24 May 2014, 8:00pm–10:30pm
Thu 29 May 2014, 8:00pm–10:30pm
Fri 30 May 2014, 8:00pm–10:30pm
Sat 31 May 2014, 8:00pm–10:30pm

Where: Latvian Centre, 60 Cleaver Terrace, Belmont, Western Australia

Restrictions: All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Standard (Belmont): $20.00
  • Concession (Belmont): $16.00
  • Groups of 10 or more - each (Belmont): $15.00
  • Guests (Fremantle): $20.00
  • Members (Fremantle): $15.00
  • Additional fees may apply


Listed by: christhomas5

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 9335 1840 or

Tickets for all other dates are $20, $16 concession or $15 each for groups of 10 or more – book on 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).