Living in Isolation - Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre

Living in Isolation - Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre


    Northern Territory Territory Tour

    May 11 - 29, 1988

    The Road to Lajamanu

    A Northern Territory youth theatre competition held in 1988, (through Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre, a program area of Brown's Mart Community Arts,) brought together the creative skills of Tim Newth and Sarah Calver – a visual artist and a dance artist. Equipped with little more than a swag, a few basic props, and some very poor Warlpiri language skills, Tim, Sarah, and a small team of artists set out along the Tanami Track. The destination was to perform the Lajamanu school’s winning entry ‘Manangkarawardingki Malju’ in their remote desert community, 940 kilometres south-west of Darwin. Rather than being phased by the challenges of distance, lack of resources, a dousing in red dust, and a script written partially in Warlpiri, Tim and Sarah returned to Darwin inspired by the potential of the Northern Territory’s rich cultural landscape and the eagerness of Territorians, both ‘whitefella’ and ‘blackfella’ alike, to share their stories. Here lay the first ‘tracks’ of a unique journey.

    Tim Newth and Sarah Calver, two founding Directors of Tracks Inc., worked on this Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre project. This was the first contact they had with the Warlpiri people of Lajamanu and established the beginning of a long relationship between two of Tracks' founding artists and the Lajamanu community.

    Young playwrights competition

    In 1987, a Territory-wide competition sought to encourage young Territorian playwrights to provide one-act scripts for production.  The entries covered aspects of Isolation – geographical, cultural, spiritual and physical. Scripts from four aspiring playwrights were developed into one-act plays, produced for a 1988 tour to each of the playwrights’ hometowns.

    One of a Kind by Carey Rohlach of Tennant Creek
    A Tour With a Difference by Jabiru Area School
    Walls Hill by Lee Frank of Alice Springs
    Manangkarawardingki Malju (Desert Boy) by Lajamanu School

    Tour Itinerary

    Nhulunbuy, Yirrkala, Gove, Alyangula (Groote Eylandt) Jabiru, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs, and Lajamanu.

    The highlight of the tour was at Lajamanu where the company narrated versions of Tour With a Difference and Walls Hill and performed the Bilingual play Manangkarawardingki Malju. The people at Lajamanu appreciated the efforts of the cast to learn some Warlpiri language. Elders invited the cast to stay an extra day so the Lajamanu Yawulyu women could share traditional dances with them.

    This contact was to play a major part in the connection to the people of Lajamanu.

    Director's Notes

    Living In Isolation a Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre Dance Theatre performance and workshop tour (including Desert Boy).

    This tour presented short works by Northern Territory youths and conducted workshops in various communities. In preparation for Desert Boy, actors had to learn some Warlpiri. Members of the Lajamanu community living in Darwin were contacted. Mary Rockman Napurrula, a mature Warlpiri person living in Darwin, gave instruction in the Warlpiri language. Some of the artists involved were Sarah Calver, Tim Newth and Janet Robertson. This contact was to play a major part in the connection to the Warlpiri people of Lajamanu. Sarah Calver and Tim were later given the skin names Nangala and Jampijinpa.

    The white actors learning Warlpiri and presenting it in a play was exciting for the residents of Lajamanu. On tour, Elders were interested in the play’s style that represented the people and the place and that in their eyes was 'correct'. In return, the Elders danced and invited the team to return and share skills and techniques with their young people.

    The Lajamanu School Council requested a residency of three artists to "work with the school community to develop traditional and modern material into contemporary dramatic performances". Sarah Calver, Tim Newth and Ken Conway travelled to Lajamanu to discuss the possibilities.

    Creative Personnel

    Director: Janet Robertson
    Choreographer: Sarah Calver
    Designer Sets and Costumes: Tim Newth
    Lighting Design: Elena Eremin
    Sound Design: Janet Robertson
    Poster Design: Jo Boniface
    Administration: Mailin Chan
    Tour Manager/Sound operator: Bill Searl
    Production Manager/Lighting Operator: Elena Eremin

    Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre was a programme of Brown’s Mart Community Arts Project
    Brown’s Mart Staff:
    Executive Officer: Ken Conway
    Executive Assistant/Project Officer: Trish Latham
    Choreographer: Sarah Calver


    Sarah Calver, Jo Harrison, Tim Newth, Conrad Page, Anna Phillips, Scott Spencer


    Desert Boy Script

    A play in one act and four scenes.

    Bob, a 9-year-old white boy (later a fully grown man)
    Russell, his father, a policeman
    Katrina, his mother
    Jampijinpa, a traditional aboriginal man (all Warlpiri)
    Nangala, an older aboriginal woman
    Four other aboriginal adults who observe Bob
    Nakamarra, Bob’s wife
    Jungarrayi, Bob’s son
    Nungarrayi, Bob’s daughter

    Scene One - Action takes place sometime in the past.
    A little white boy of 9 years old called Bob lives in Lajamanu, a remote place in the Northern Territory. His father works at the Police Station. Bob and his parents are the only Europeans living in this Aboriginal settlement. The family have gone out camping for the weekend.
    Russell: Son, you go off and play. Me and mum want to have a sleep.
    Katrina: Yes, but don’t go a long way because you might get bitten by a snake. Please don’t go further than that anthill over there.
    Bob: Yes mum. I promise you I won’t go further than that anthill.
    Bob wanders off with a can of coke. Katrina and Russell drink a can of beer in front of their car and then fall asleep next to their car.

    Scene Two - It is dark. Bob is all alone and crying.
    Bob: I’m lost. Someone, please help me. I’ve got no water. I’m very thirsty. I’m going to die. Please help me God. Don’t let me die. Mum and Dad, Where are you Mum and Dad?
    Far away Bob can hear the music and singing of Aboriginal people. Bob falls asleep.

    Scene Three - The next morning a group of Aboriginal women and men holding boomerangs and spears are standing around Bob in a circle, Bob wakes up
    Bob: I’m thirsty.
    Jampijinpa: Yungkarla ngapa kardiyaku (Give the white boy water), [Bob drinks water. Man feels him and feels his hair. The Warlpiri people look frightened.]
    Bob: Do you speak English?
    Nangala: Nyarrpaa ka wankami? (What is he saying?)
    Bob: [Crying] What are they saying?
    Nangala: Nyyiyajanka kanpa yulami? (Why are you crying?) [She feeds him bush food.]
    Bob: What is this? Yuk! [He eats] Yum!
    Jampijinpa: Nganja ngulaju mangarri mgurrju! (Eat that good vegetable food.)
    Bob: Mangarri? (Vegetable food?)
    Jampijinpa: Yuwayi, nyampuju mangarri. (Yes, that is vegetable food.)

    Scene Four - Twenty years later, Bob’s parents never found him. Bob is now holding spears and boomerangs.
    He is out in the desert looking strong and fit and healthy. He is carrying a red kangaroo.
    Bob Japaljarri: [To his wife Nakamarra and his children Jungarrayi and Nungarrayi] Nyampakurla marluju. Mantalkulu nyampuju marluju. Matalkurna ngajuju. Wurlulkala manta nyampukuju marlukuju. (Here’s our kangaroo. Come and get this kangaroo. I’m tired. Get firewood for this kangaroo.)
    The whole family make a fire, talking and laughing in Warlpiri.
    The End - Ngalajuku


    Dance Development Office: Sarah Calver

    [Under Brown’s Mart Community Arts – Executive Officer Ken Conway]

    Photographer: Unknown. (l-r) Conrad Page, Tim Newth, Anna Phillips, Scott Spenser, Sarah Calver
    Photographer: Unknown. (l-r) Conrad Page, Anna phillips, Jo ?, Tim Newth, Sarah Calver, Scott Spenser
    Photographer: Unknown (l-r) standing: Tim Newth, Sarah Calver
    Photographer: Unknown (l-r) sitting at back includes: Jason Jampijinpa Patrick, Joshua Jampijinpa Sampson, Scott Spenser. (front centre sitting): Tim Newth, Sarah Calver.
    Photographer: Unknown
    Photographer: Unknown (l-r) Anna Phillips, Scott Spenser, Janet Robertson, Conrad Page, Sophia Nakamarra Patterson, ?, Katrina Nakamarra Andrews, Patricia Nakamarra Patterson, Sarah Calver
    Photographer: Unknown (l-r) Joshua Jampijinpa Sampson, Stuart Japaljarri/Japangardi Green, Sarah Calver, Tim Newth.

    Explore Further

    Lajamanu / Milpirri Home Page
    Eras of Youth Dance

    Media Response

    “…simply brilliant. Students seeing this production will not fail to see how they can use theatre for their own productions.”  Tenant and District times

    “…proved that talent and creativity abounds in the Territory. … bravo for a job well done.” Centralian Advocate

    “Desert Boy … brought us a full circle to the true beginnings of Australian Theatre – the Aboriginal art of story telling. … highly satisfying theatre, thoroughly professional in execution, stylish and unpretentious.” New Theatre Australia.

    Tracks Dance Company Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia.

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