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Bombing of Darwin play tells stories of city under attack

A harbour explosion behind actress Haylee Wright, surrounded by flying paper aeroplanes
Haylee Wright, one of the actresses in Mr Takahashi And Other Falling Secrets.

Corrugated Iron

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Before the bombs even began to fall in 1942, cracks were appearing in Darwin's foundations.

"When a community is in crisis, it can become a more generous community, or it can start to implode," playwright Sandra Thibodeaux said.

"The cracks that were always there became more apparent."

Thibodeaux said the cracks were the type that appeared between people, in a frontier city suspicious and on edge about a war creeping closer and closer.

That's the setting for her new play, Mr Takahashi And Other Falling Secrets, which premieres in Darwin this week to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of the city beginning on February 19, 1942.

The all-female cast stand in a circle inside a Darwin theatre
The all-female cast of Mr Takehashi and His Falling Secrets rehearse in Darwin.

ABC News: Jacqueline Breen

"[The play] is about the bombing, obviously, but it is specifically about the lives of women in Darwin at the time," she said.

The all-female cast play characters based loosely on real-life stories unearthed during Thibodeaux's research.

"There were some little glimmers of fascinating detail I got from the administrator's wife's diaries," she said.

The character of a maid was based on an Indigenous woman from the Garden Point mission and Thibodeaux also drew from records about a Chinese family who ran a shop on Darwin's Smith Street.

The Mr Takahashi of the title is based on Darwin photographer Yasukichi Murakami, who died in an Australian internment camp after he was sent there as an enemy alien.

The cast, dressed in nightgowns stand in a line onstage
The play is about the lives of women in Darwin during the 1942 bombings by the Japanese.

Corrugated Iron

"We never actually see him on the stage [but] during the play he becomes the locus for people's fears and suspicions," Thibodeaux said.

It was that fear and suspicion, in part, that saw Japanese Australians targeted and blamed for the war, and Thibodeaux said there are parallels between that time and now.

"Also it was interesting when you look at the fact that we were refugees not very long ago — 75 years ago.

"What short memories we have. It wasn't so long ago that we had to get out of our homes when we were being bombed, and try and find other places to live."

After the play's Darwin run, it will be staged in Katherine and Cairns.