The Oak Tree at Byford Secondary College Performing Arts Centre, Western Australia

A WUNGONG oak tree more than 150 years old is the inspiration for a new play by local writer Fiona Blakeley.

Directed by Jane Sherwood and aptly titled The Oak Tree, the 60-minute production is being staged at the Byford Secondary College Performing Arts Centre this January.

The story follows the trials of Kate (played by Blakeley) and Lennie, a couple who buy a farm in Byford but are hindered by the ghost of a woman who lived there 90 years before.

The ghost has vowed to protect the old oak tree standing at the property’s entrance, leaving Kate with the choice of ignoring the warnings and standing staunch in the face of adversity – or facing up to what she longs to run from and risking everything that matters.

“I’m fascinated with history and its relevance in our lives today,” Blakeley said. “The Perth Hills are rich in local history from the early days of settlement.

“The oak tree in the play is a real one planted by Sarah Theodosia Hall – Halls Head in Mandurah is named after the family – at Wungong farm, which the family occupied from the mid-1840s until their death.

“She made her family promise to protect the tree and never chop it down while they still occupied the farm.

“Their original house burnt down but the one built in the early 1900s still stands in Byford, as perhaps does the oak tree.

“It inspires me how the trials and tribulations of people living at that time still have relevance today and how the themes of grief and loss cross the barriers of space and time to unite us.”

Acting for more than 25 years, Blakeley has appeared in numerous television commercials, short films and feature films and has performed with KADS, Melville and Roleystone Theatres, the Graduate Dramatic Society and at the Short + Sweet 10-minute play festival.

She has also written shows for Short + Sweet and Fringe World and is currently editing her historical fiction novel about Isobel Gowdie, the queen of the Scottish witches.

“I originally wrote The Oak Tree about the Halls and the modern-day couple Kate and Lennie,” Blakeley said.

“But the time and words it takes to give such a story justice could not fit into one play – so stay tuned for the prequel to The Oak Tree, all about the marvellous Sarah and Henry Edward Hall and their time in what is now Byford.”

The Oak Tree plays at 7.30pm January 13, 14, 20 and 21 with 2pm matinees January 14 and 21. Tickets are $23, $18 concession – book at www.trybooking.com/CELAM

The Byford Secondary College Performing Arts Centre is at 57 Abernethy Road, Byford.