Doku Rai – Brisbane Festival

Melchior Dias Fernandes Photo:  Ponch Hawkes
Melchior Dias Fernandes
Photo: Ponch Hawkes

Doku Rai , featured in this year’s Brisbane Festival, is a wild, musically fuelled action drama that stems from a collaboration between the maverick Timorese rock group Galaxy and Australia’s innovative Black Lung Theatre and Whaling Firm.  Aussie Theatre’s Gillian Wills caught up with Melchior Dias Fernandes, the lead singer of the rock band Galaxy, to talk about the production.

The process of making this unusual, but hyper-realized show was so extraordinary that it was captured on film. Extracts from this footage is screened during the performance.

Forget about well appointed Green Rooms, bathrooms and dressing rooms for the artists and musicians involved. The rehearsal and creative making phase was all conducted under the roof of the Beloi Beach Hotel, an old Portuguese Colonial building, on the far-flung island of Araoua off the coast of Dili.

Melchior Dias Fernandes believes it is historically significant that this hotel was used, as Timorese prisoners built it during the Portuguese occupation. Situated on the peak of a cliff, the laborers were forced to drag stone and other building materials up an impossibly steep 99-steps.

According to Fernandes, the two-month production phase was rewarding but really tough. The actors involved were persuaded that carting vessels of water up these very steps was a part of their contract. Just as there was no water, there was no supply of edible provisions. The 28 involved – film-makers, lighting and costume designers, five production students seconded from Melbourne’s Victorian College of the Arts, actors and musicians – lived off fish they caught in the sea and drank local wine made from palm sugar. The wine, according to Fernandes, made the Australians sick.

“The students were great,” says Fernandes. “They just arrived and announced, ‘we are here and will do anything to help.’” There was a curfew at night and all of the sets and costumes had to be made during the daytime.

Osme Gonsalves in Doku Rai. Photo by Thomas Henning.
Osme Gonsalves in Doku Rai. Photo by Thomas Henning.

Doku Rai was presented at the Adelaide Festival earlier in the year where it attracted controversy, notoriety, admiration and consistently strong reactions. But Fernandes says, the production is always under scrutiny and subjected to improvements so it is a constantly evolving show. The narrative revealed through experimental and extreme theatre and action songs, is about two warring brothers who cannot resolve their differences through any means except violence. And the trouble is, that the murdered brother keeps coming back to life.

The idea germinated as a result of a chance meeting during the filming of Balibo in 2008. Fernandes explains that Thomas Wright was in the film.

“He and I, and fellow actor Osme Gonzales, became friends and discussed mounting a joint production. We decided to work on a combined project … It has turned out to be a good opportunity to show the world how the Timorese live and also for our people to learn about life in Australia. It represents a significant historical and cultural exchange.

“We gave the inhabitants on Araoua the message that we were working with a bunch of foreigners who were not military, ocean divers or Christians, but artists, and we asked them to watch the rehearsals. And by the end, their bands came from all over the island to play with us. Even the United Nations Security staff and the Chief of the Maritime Police danced and sang along.

“The set is a massive canoe filled with water which we brought across from the Island and it’s used in a variety of ways, as a bath and a well for instance. It’s incongruous, a crazy set design and we really like it. The roof for the set is made from a traditional technique of interwoven coconut leaves. The show is not really political, perhaps a little about the Portuguese, because they don’t respect our independence. Timor is still their island,” says Fernandes.

Doku Rai has been variously described as a masterclass in storytelling and surprise. Brimming with dark humour, irresistible and high octane music infused with reggae and Timorese rhythmic and melodic traditions, dance, challenging text and belted singing, it sounds like it’s too good to be missed.

Doku Rai

17-21 September, 7.30pm

Judith Wright Centre

Bookings: 61 7 3872 9000 or brisbanefestival.com.au

SYDNEY SEASON:

25-28 September. 8pm

Bookings:  Carriageworks

http://www.carriageworks.com.au/?page=Event&event=Doku-Rai#sthash.QP82n8OE.dpuf
  • Wednesday, September 25 to Saturday September 28 – 8-10pm
  • September 28, 2pm

Price – $ 35

Talk show – Friday September 27th

– See more at: http://portuguese.org.au/en/node/timorense-play-doku-rai-sydney#sthash.QP82n8OE.dpuf

  • Wednesday, September 25 to Saturday September 28 – 8-10pm
  • September 28, 2pm

Price – $ 35

Talk show – Friday September 27th

For more information visit the website http://www.carriageworks.com.au/?page=Event&event=Doku-Rai

– See more at: http://portuguese.org.au/en/node/timorense-play-doku-rai-sydney#sthash.QP82n8OE.dpuf

  • Wednesday, September 25 to Saturday September 28 – 8-10pm
  • September 28, 2pm

Price – $ 35

Talk show – Friday September 27th

For more information visit the website http://www.carriageworks.com.au/?page=Event&event=Doku-Rai

– See more at: http://portuguese.org.au/en/node/timorense-play-doku-rai-sydney#sthash.QP82n8OE.dpuf

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