Melbourne’s Black Lung Theatre and Whaling Firm went to a remote Timor Leste island, where they spent a few weeks in an abandoned colonial hotel (dodgy power and no running water) with a band called Galaxy and a performance company called Liurai Fo’er. The result is a roller-coaster rush of storytelling that clashes cultures, rocks ’til it bleeds, refuses to die and introduces a superstar rooster.
Doku Rai starts with the story of a brother placing a doku (death curse) on his older brother. But curses are mighty powerful things and years later, the brother returns and cannot die, despite being violently killed many times. Inspired by Timorese folklore and driven by the violence that’s dominated too much of our nearest neighbour’s history, it demands our attention and confronts with its pain, until the white hipster theatre director steps in.
With a meta-twist of meta-absurdity, Doku Rai intertwines the tale of the stuff-white-people-like theatre dudes who go to Timor to make a play with a local company. But there’s no time for earnest self-reflection, as the companies show how they each found their theatre-making soul mates but saw that their life experiences that are so far apart that the common ground has to be explosive.
With Timorese rock that makes you want to leap off your seat, a drop-dead design that takes us into that abandoned hotel and the story’s inner world, and film by Amiel Courtin-Wilson (who made Bastardy, the wonderful film about Uncle Jack Charles) that takes us into the island and its secrets, Doku Rai is angry and joyful, loud and intimate, confronting and welcoming – and all the more glorious for its contradictions.
It was already sold out early in the week, but it’s worth chancing a ticket as this is theatre so authentic and original that it should be compulsory.