Cross-cultural play to make a splash


A performance reading of the play written by CDU lecturer Dr Sandra Thibodeaux will debut on Saturday

A performance reading of the play written by CDU lecturer Dr Sandra Thibodeaux will debut on Saturday

A play inspired by real-life events involving Indonesian youths jailed in Australia for working on a boat found to be harbouring asylum seekers will debut at the Darwin Festival on Saturday (August 22).

A cast including former NT Administrator Tom Pauling AO QC will perform a reading of “The Age of Bones (Jaman Belulang)”, which follows an Indonesian mother’s quest to reunite with her lost son.

Charles Darwin University literary studies lecturer Dr Sandra Thibodeaux wrote the play after learning about the detained boys and arranging to meet some of them years later once they had returned to Indonesia.

“No one knew too much about these boys so I wanted to share their stories,” Dr Thibodeaux said.

“I felt a special point of empathy for them at the time, as a mother of a teenaged boy myself.”

In the play, an Indonesian boy fails to return home after going fishing, which leads his mother to hire a seafarer (Tom Pauling) to find him at sea – dead or alive.

It is soon revealed that the boy has been jailed in Australia. Scenes that follow the boy’s account of events are played out surreally under the ocean, with hammerhead sharks and other sea creatures representing various characters.

Dr Thibodeaux said the play aimed to reflect the power of maternal love and explored the lengths a mother would go to protect or to reunite with her son.

“The play aims to connect people of different backgrounds through shared emotions that arise from the loss of a child or the fear of losing a child,” she said.

The play is a cross-cultural collaboration between Indonesian and Australian performing arts practitioners, with director Iswadi Pratama to travel from Sumatra, Indonesia to rehearse the play with the Darwin ensemble of actors. The performance is supported by the Darwin Festival, NT Government’s Arts NT, Brown’s Mart and CDU.

The performed reading of “The Age of Bones (Jaman Belulang)” will be staged at Brown’s Mart Theatre on Saturday, 22 August at 2pm. For more information visit W:

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