Not in Print: playwrights off script - on inspiration, process and theatre itself

Norm & Ahmed: Race prejudice is a profoundly irrational force l Australian theatre classics

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In Norm and Ahmed a rather ocker, white Australian male encounters a well-mannered Pakistani student with revolutionary ambitions on a Sydney street at midnight. The exploration of alienation in this play remained a common theme in Buzo’s work, with a tireless commitment to reflecting the true nature of Australian society.

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Alex Buzo was born in Sydney and educated at the University of NSW. In the late 1960s his early plays Norm and Ahmed, Rooted and The Front Room Boys pioneered a revival of Australian theatre. Macquarie and other historical plays such as Big River and Pacific Union helped to popularise the themes of our individual and national maturity. Buzo's books Tautology, The Longest Game, The Young Person's Guide to the Theatre and A Dictionary of the Almost Obvious confirm his reputation as an important recorder of the modern Australian idiom.

In 2005 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of New South Wales for his contribution to Australian literature. And following his death in 2006, his daughter Emma founded The Alex Buzo Company, which was the first arts organisation in Australia to produce, promote and perpetuate the work of a single Australian writer. Today, Emma Buzo is here to discuss what is, perhaps, her father’s most famous work, Norm and Ahmed, which she loves deeply and also directed for The Alex Buzo Company in 2007.

Wary Asians on a Theme: Dramatising in the Near North l Australian theatre in Asia

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Toby Leon reads an article Alex Buzo wrote for Quadrant Magazine in 2004. It’s called ‘Wary Asians on a Theme: Dramatising in the Near North’ and unpacks the cultural complexities that Buzo encountered when presenting his work in Asia - from India, to Malaysia and Indonesia too - seeing the reactions from audiences, reading local critics’ appraisals of his plays, listening to the directors’ choices about his characters motivation and truth, then trying to make those same choices himself when he directed his play Pacific Union in Jakarta. And of course the piece is brimming with Alex’s insight and humour, both just as sharp as each other.


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Alex Buzo was born in Sydney and educated at the University of NSW. In the late 1960s his early plays Norm and AhmedRooted and The Front Room Boys pioneered a revival of Australian theatre.Macquarie and other historical plays such as Big River and Pacific Union helped to popularise the themes of our individual and national maturity. Buzo's books TautologyThe Longest GameThe Young Person's Guide to the Theatre and A Dictionary of the Almost Obvious confirm his reputation as an important recorder of the modern Australian idiom.

Hoods: Who is responsible for childrens’ welfare? l Award-winning Australian theatre

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Each night two hoods ride a train to a wrecking yard on the outskirts of the city. Here, in this cemetery of stories, they are storytellers with the power to fast forward, pause and rewind. Tonight they tell the story of three kids left in a car. Exploring issues of poverty and family violence, Hoods is a suburban tale of survival and solidarity against the odds.

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Angela Betzien is a multi-award winning writer and a founding member of independent theatre company Real TV; her work has toured widely across Australia and internationally. She is currently the Patrick White Fellow at Sydney Theatre Company and developing new plays for them, as well as Melbourne Theatre Company and Belvoir.

Angela’s play Children of the Black Skirt toured Australian schools for three years and won the 2005 Drama Victoria Award for Best Performance by a Theatre Company for Secondary Schools. Another work, War Crimes, won the 2012 Kit Denton Fellowship and the QLD Literary Award for Playwriting; it was also nominated for a NSW Premier’s Literary Award in 2012.

Emerald City: Fame and greed in the merry old land of Aus l Classic Australian theatre

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A fast-moving, wisecracking commentary on 1980's materialism, urban mores and morals, and the rivalries and passions to be encountered on the road to success. Colin, a screenwriter, and his wife Kate, a publisher, move from Melbourne to Sydney, the ‘Emerald City’, where fame and fortune are there for the taking, but surprises are in store for them both.

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David Williamson is Australia’s best known and most widely performed playwright. He was the first person outside Britain to receive the George Devine Award (for The Removalists) and the awards kept coming. They include: twelve AWGIE Awards; five Australian Film Institute Awards for Best Screenplay; The United Nations Association of Australian Media Peace Award in 1996; and in 2005, the Richard Lane Award for services to the Australian Writers’ Guild. David has also received four honorary doctorates and been made an Officer of the Order of Australia. His prodigious output for the stage includes The Removalists, The Department, The Club, Travelling North, Don’s Party, Brilliant Lies and Dead White Males.

The Secret River: Our history is contested space l Classic Australian theatre

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William Thornhill: Born into brutal poverty in London in the late 18th century and transported to the Colony of New South Wales for theft in 1806. After earning his freedom he brings his wife and children to the Hawkesbury River where they ‘take up’ 100 acres of land, only to discover that it’s not theirs to take.

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Andrew Bovell writes for the stage, television and film. In 1992 he wrote the original screenplay for Strictly Ballroom and in 2001 he went on to adapt his stage play Speaking in Tongues in to the feature film, Lantana. The film premiered at the Sydney Film Festival in 2001 and went on to screen at numerous international film festivals winning many awards. Most recently Andrew adapted John Le Carre’s novel A Most Wanted Man.

His theatre credits include Scenes from a Separation (with Hannie Rayson); Speaking in Tongues, which premiered at Griffin Theatre in 1996 and has had over 50 other productions worldwide; Holy Day, which won the Louis Esson Prize for Drama at the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards and the AWGIE Award for Best Stage Play (2002); and When the Rain Stops Falling, which won Queensland and Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards for Best Play, the Adelaide Critics Circle Individual Award, Sydney Theatre Award for Best New Australian Work and 3 Greenroom Awards including Best New Writing for the Australian Stage.

Shafana & Aunt Sarrinah: What do you do when you disagree with someone you love? l Provocative Australian theatre

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At the heart of Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah is the relationship between an aunt, Sarrinah, and her niece, Shafana. Both devout Muslims, the younger woman wants to put on a headscarf, the older woman tries to dissuade her. For Sarrinah, the hijab represents a world from which she has escaped; for her niece, Shafana, it is a personal statement of renewed faith.

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Alana Valentine is one of Australia’s most renowned and respected playwrights. Her work for the stage includes Grounded, Cyberbile, Run Rabbit Run, Parramatta Girls, Eyes to the Floor, Watermark, Swimming the Globe, The Conjurers, Comin’ Home Soon, Dead Man Brake, Singing the Lonely Heart and Savage Grace.

Her writing has been awarded many times, including the Queensland and NSW Premier’s Awards, five AWGIE awards, including the inaugural David Williamson Prize and the Major AWGIE in 2013, the Rodney Seaborn Playwrights Award, a residency at the Banff Playwrights Conference in Canada, the ANPC/New Dramatists Award, a Churchilll Fellowship, a Centenary Medal and an International Writing Fellowship at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. In 2012 she won the prestigious STAGE Award—judged by Pulitzer Prize winning playwrights and Nobel Laureates—for her play Ear to the Edge of Time.

Radiance: Families are full of secrets l Classic Australian theatre

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Cressy, Mae and Nona are half sisters with little in common bar the ghosts from their childhood. They return to their childhood home on the eve of their mother’s funeral. The tropical Queensland landscape is the spectacular backdrop for their turbulent and often humourous reunion. And they discover a surprising bond that is stronger than the pain of their history.


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Louis Nowra is one of Australia’s most successful writers. He has penned novels, crafted film scripts, authored two memoirs and worked as a librettist, but he is perhaps best known for his plays. Since the early 1970s he has created over 30 stories for the stage; several of them have earned a rightful place in the Australian dramatic canon, and our hearts. They include Summer of the Aliens, Cosi, The Golden Age, The Temple and Albert Names Edward.

8GB of Hardcore Pornography: barely concealed desperation l Award-winning Australian theatre

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They met online. She’s a nurse in her forties, trapped in a loop of catastrophic debt. He’s in IT, trapped in his own loop of nightly porn-trawling. Both crave something else, but not necessarily each other. A deceptively compassionate cringe-comedy of mid-life loneliness and hidden zip folders. 

Please note: this episode contains strong language and adult themes.

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Declan Greene is a writer and theatre-maker based in Melbourne. His plays include A Black Joy, Moth, Summertime in the Garden of Eden and Little Mercy. His work has been produced at Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne Theatre Company, Sydney Theatre Company, the Sydney Opera House and various backyards in suburban Melbourne. Awards include the Malcolm Robertson Prize, the R.E. Ross Trust Playwright’s Development Award, an AWGIE Award and Green Room Awards.

Don’s Party: the way we were l Classic Australian theatre

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Election night 1969: Don and Kath hope for a change of government and give a party to watch the results. But as the tide turns against Labor, faded ideals and disappointed hopes begin to reveal themselves. This brilliant satire examines a society on the threshold of emerging from a generation of comfortable, conservative political and social values.


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David Williamson is Australia’s best known and most widely performed playwright. He was the first person outside Britain to receive the George Devine Award (for The Removalists) and the awards kept coming. They include: twelve AWGIE Awards; five Australian Film Institute Awards for Best Screenplay; The United Nations Association of Australian Media Peace Award in 1996; and in 2005, the Richard Lane Award for services to the Australian Writers’ Guild. David has also received four honorary doctorates and been made an Officer of the Order of Australia. His prodigious output for the stage includes The Removalists, The Department, The Club, Travelling North, Brilliant Lies and Dead White Males.

Preface to Don’s Party l Reflecting on classic Australian theatre

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Toby Leon reads H.G. Kippax’s preface to Don’s Party. From the mid-1960s on, Kippax was the authoritative critic at the Sydney Morning Herald and is said to have spotted the talent of the young John Bell, Robyn Nevin, Mel Gibson, Judy Davis and... David Williamson.

Cosi: A symphony of operatic madness l Classic Australian theatre

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Lewis is a bit of a non-participant in life, but when he takes up an opportunity to direct a play at a mental institution - for a bit of extra cash - he gets much more than he bargained for. He becomes emotionally involved with his actors’ lives as his production lurches forward, and the anti-Vietnam war protests take place in the streets outside.


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Louis Nowra is one of Australia’s most successful writers. He has penned novels, crafted film scripts, authored two memoirs and worked as a librettist, but he is perhaps best known for his plays. Since the early 1970s he has created over 30 stories for the stage; several of them have earned a rightful place in the Australian dramatic canon, and our hearts. They include Summer of the AliensRadianceThe Golden Age, The Temple and Albert Names Edward.

Trial by Madmen l Reflecting on classic Australian theatre

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Louis Nowra reads his introduction to Cosi. It’s called Trial by Madmen and you'll see that, once again, truth is stranger than fiction. And if you thought you knew everything there was to know about one of Australia's most beloved plays, think again.

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Louis Nowra is one of Australia’s most successful writers. He has penned novels, crafted film scripts, authored two memoirs and worked as a librettist, but he is perhaps best known for his plays. Since the early 1970s he has created over 30 stories for the stage; several of them have earned a rightful place in the Australian dramatic canon, and our hearts. They include Summer of the AliensRadianceThe Golden Age, The Temple and Albert Names Edward.

Speaking in Tongues: mysterious reflections, love’s refractions l Award-winning Australian theatre

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Two couples set out to betray their partners. A lover returns from the past and a husband doesn’t answer the phone. A woman disappears. Her neighbour's the prime suspect. In this masterfully interconnected polyphony, an evocative mystery unravels alongside a devastating tale of disconnection between individuals, partners and communities.


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Andrew Bovell writes for the stage, television and film. In 1992 he wrote the original screenplay for Strictly Ballroom and in 2001 he went on to adapt his stage play Speaking in Tongues in to the feature film, Lantana. The film premiered at the Sydney Film Festival in 2001 and went on to screen at numerous international film festivals winning many awards. Most recently Andrew adapted John Le Carre’s novel A Most Wanted Man.

His theatre credits include Scenes from a Separation (with Hannie Rayson); Speaking in Tongues, which premiered at Griffin Theatre in 1996 and has had over 50 other productions worldwide; Holy Day, which won the Louis Esson Prize for Drama at the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards and the AWGIE Award for Best Stage Play (2002); and When the Rain Stops Falling, which won Queensland and Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards for Best Play, the Adelaide Critics Circle Individual Award, Sydney Theatre Award for Best New Australian Work and 3 Greenroom Awards including Best New Writing for the Australian Stage.

Playwright’s Note for Speaking in Tongues l Reflections on award-winning Australian theatre

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Erin Dewar reads Andrew Bovell’s introduction to Speaking in Tongues, which was first performed in 1996 by the Griffin Theatre Company. The play has become an Australian classic - a rich and complex work that offers a few new answers, and mysteries, each time you approach it.