The Pearler

Set in Darwin in the 1940’s, the crew onboard a lugger search for pearl-shell and the elusive pearl that will make them rich. They find camaraderie, terror and humour but their lives are changed forever by war and internment.

Using physical theatre masks and original live music, Business Unusual brings to life the pearlers’ lives and the breath-taking beauty of the underwater world.


Walking by the Paspaley Pearls shop I became transfixed by the beauty of the pearls in the window. I went inside to have a closer look and saw the photographs on the walls of Japanese divers in bell helmets with their Aboriginal tenders looking at the camera.

I was struck by the juxtaposition of the beauty of the pearl and pearl-shell and the hardship of finding and farming this precious object. The more I researched, the more I realised that behind the image of wealth, beauty and luxury, there was a tale of hardship and terror involving people from many different countries. These people came to Darwin for the pearling industry and played a major part in establishing the Darwin we know today.

“Evocative and sensual…Trina Parker’s design is striking …Sarah Cathcart’s direction seamlessly harnessed all the elements of story, physical performance, design, music and montage to create a sophisticated production which adeptly revealed personal and social aspects of north Australia’s rich racial and labour history. Congratulations to Darwin’s independent production house Business Unusual Theatre for bringing this highly theatrical and socially relevant production to fruition”

Real Time Oct/Nov 2004 Joanna Barrkman

The Pearler

Darwin season, Browns Mart Theatre. 2004                                   

Creative Team:

Writers                              Nicola Fearn and Berenice Franklin

Director/Dramaturg        Sarah Cathcart

Designer                           Trina Parker

Puppet Maker                  Bryony Anderson

Mask Maker                     Toby Wilsher

Audio Visuals                   Elka Kerkhoffs

Lighting Designer           Andrew Dudley