An hour and a half from Perth, sitting on Ballardong boodja land is said to be one of the most haunted buildings in our state.
A trip to the historical town of York may see you visit their various tourist attractions (can’t miss the sock factory) and marvel at their numerous heritage listed buildings.
However, one historic building which you won’t find advertised as a place for tourists is the Old York Hospital.
Built in 1896, the many real accounts of hauntings and ghost sightings throughout this site’s long and dark history have become the basis of a new theatre production, named after the town, itself, York.
The Old York Hospital
For five years theatre makers Ian Michael (Wilman Nyoongar) and Chris Isaacs have been developing York. The show covers four particular periods of time within the hospital’s, and the land on which it sits, history and enlists ten actors to play its multitude of characters.
Recent graduates of WAAPA’s Bachelor of Performing Arts course, Isaac Diamond and Elise Wilson, play several of the characters in this mammoth story.
The first act sees both performers playing cub scouts, as they portray one of the well-known hauntings at the hospital.
“I first appear in act one as Sam who is part of the cub scouts troop, they’ve gone on a camp to the hospital which is something which used to happen all the time. All Sam cares about is going to sleep. He doesn’t want to be part of the camp activities or to be in nature. He just wants to know when bedtime is.” says Isaac.
Elise describes her character Angela as a “shit stirrer” who doesn’t believe in the supernatural events at hand. “She finds a deliciousness in the horror and gore.”
“You know how there’s always that one character in every horror movie who’s like, “Oh whatever, I don’t care I’m going to go over here!”
Watch this 1989 short documentary about haunting experienced by the Cub Scout Troops while staying at the Old York Hospital.
The second act reaches further back in time. With that time shift also comes a shift in tone.
“[Act one] is a supernatural type of horror with ghosts and things happening beyond what we know and understand.
Whereas the 1919 and the 1830 sections, which are both in act two, are more horrific in the sense of the time and what was happening. It’s a truth telling section.” says Elise.
York’s extensive history is relatively unknown, within WA’s historical narrative. Isaac describes it as forgotten history, which this show is bringing to the forefront.
“I knew it was one of the first settlements [in Western Australia], but I didn’t know the depth of the history and the things that happened in this hospital.
“There’s an Indigenous narrative which hasn’t been taught in schools. Only recently have we started to talk about and dissect the horrible things that have happened in York and at this hospital.”
“I think it’s going to be a huge learning moment and an opportunity for healing.”
Isaac Diamond in the rehearsal room for York.
Jo Morris, Shareena Clanton, Elise Wilson in the rehearsal room for York.
So, how scary is the show really? Could a certified scaredy cat see it?
“It’s properly scary!” says Isaac, rating the show an 8/10 on the scare factor; as does Elise.
“Even running [the show] in daylight, people watching it are getting scared. We’ve got some jump scares, tricks with the set, reveals.” he says.
Elise says York is a powerful show which every theatre lover should see; even those who are easily frightened.
“It’s a very clever script which has connections through time I hope people will trust me when I say it’s epic, it’s hilarious, it’s horrifying and it’s moving. It has all of the elements to make a really incredible experience of theatre.”
York is presented by Black Swan State Theatre Company of WA in collaboration with WA Youth Theatre Company. It’s set to open on the 10th of July and run to the 1st of August. Due to current COVID-19 measures please check the Black Swan website for any updates on the show https://bsstc.com.au