NORPA’s newest work has been years in the making.
Inspired by a Bundjalung Nation creation story, Djurra is an emotive piece of dance theatre that tells the story through interwoven vignettes. Using powerful First Nation monologues and striking imagery, this new work will be an unforgettable experience. But it’s risky. Director Kirk Page has been brought in to get the work from development to the stage.
‘It started three years ago,’ says Page, ‘and it was a co-artistic-led project between Rhoda Roberts and Julian Louis. Rhoda brought the story to the table and the company was interested in making a theatre work. It’s taken time to work out how to do this. How do we translate this into a theatrical experience in the most respectful and creative way?
‘There have been a lot of elders come in and contribute,’ says Page, ‘namely Roy Gordon, who is an elder and a local and an actor and language man.’
The edgy aspect of this show is to tell a story of place and culture but at the same time to safeguard the cultural integrity of that story for Indigenous people for whom aspects are part of secret business.
‘Its about doing it in a way where you don’t give away secrets,’ says Page, ‘but tell stories. There are themes of family, themes of coming home. Themes of what life does to us. Those stories are universal and relatable.
‘The most challenging thread to the story is how do we talk about lore without sharing lore elements. This is secret men’s business; there is a cultural collateral that is not open to share with everyone. How do we thread these elements for a theatrical experience so we can learn something, reflect on ourselves and create a great show, and hopefully not get our sights crossed and confuse people?
‘In the end,’ says Kirk, ‘Djurra is an offering and it’s there for people to translate for themselves and to get led by what they see and what they think and what they hear.’
It’s deep-end stuff for Kirk, who has worked in film, TV and theatre as a movement consultant and director on ABC’s My Place, Bran Nue Dae, Krush – Legs on the Wall and with the Bangarra Dance Theatre. His acting credits also include Redfern Now.
‘It’s nerve-wracking,’ says Kirk of the responsibility of sculpting this new work. ‘It’s massive; it’s such an ambitious project and an ambitious work to make; it’s what NORPA does. It’s not as simple as turning up with a script, it’s a powerful thing the company does and Julian Louis is a standout in the theatre community in doing work like this.’
With performers Joel Bray, Sarah Bolt, Damion Hunter and James Slee, and work choreographed by Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal, Djurra is set to be one of the most exciting collaborative works created in the northern rivers this year.
Wednesday 29 November till Saturday 2 December, 7.30pm 60 minutes (no interval)
Suitable for 12 years+ (low-level course language, haze affects and adult themes).