Sunday, 2 September 2018

Congratulations Noëlle!

Happy news for 7-ONer Noëlle whose radio script, Seoul City Sue, won the 2018 AWGIE Award for Radio on Thursday. The piece is Noëlle’s attempt to trace and understand how a Methodist missionary from Middle America ended up broadcasting propaganda for the North Koreans during the 1950-53 Korean War. You can listen to or download the program from the ABC Radio National website here

Also congratulations to playwriting winners Angela Betzien, Finegan Kruckemeyer and Michele Lee, and to Sue Smith, the very deserving recipient of the Australian Writers' Guild's Lifetime Achievement Award.
The woman kneeling in this 1951 photo is Ann Wallis Suhr who was Seoul City Sue ... probably.

Monday, 9 July 2018


The first few months of 2018 were spent writing a workshop-able draft of my new play Flame Tree Street. I pretty much wrote full time until my writer-in-residency at the Booranga Writers’ Centre in March where I tested the early writing on the floor with acting students from Charles Sturt University. With each draft, my earlier play Jump For Jordan moved from tragedy to comedy, but these young actors showed me that Flame Tree Street was working in reverse, evolving from a type of Absurd comedy into something more formal and weighty. A month later, with the support of the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, the amazing director Cristabel Sved and I workshopped the play further and staged a reading in April with a professional cast. I’m so grateful to have had this play road tested early and put on the right track. I’m now having a break from that play, and am writing another called The Secret Warzone.

Interestingly - in terms of funding trends - there is always mentoring to be done, this time with emerging writers through Milk Crate Theatre, Playwriting Australia, and the Blacktown Arts Centre. In March, I worked as a dramaturge on the plays of three Western Sydney writers which were showcased at the National Play Festival, and in May, I spoke on two panels: Australian stories: the playwrights role in society at Merrigong Theatre Company, and Unheard voices at the National Theatre of Parramatta. As a proud board member, I saw faces light up during PYT/Fairfield’s site-specific event Little Baghdad, produced in association with the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors and the Parents’ Cafe. I also recently raised a glass with some of the folks from “Writerstan”, our narrative writing unit at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, to celebrate the state and federal governments’ acceptance of the majority of the Final Report’s recommendations.

Other than that, I’ve been Skyping and writing grant applications with Emma Hall and Grace Pundyk in the hope that we three Australian delegates to the next International Women’s Playwrights Conference can obtain funding to fly to Santiago, Chile, in October to hear our plays presented in Spanish translation (It’s such a trip seeing your words in translation – see excerpt from Jump For Jordan below). I’ve also been asked to be the Oceania (Australian and New Zealand) representative at a number of conference roundtables.

SOPHIE: Azza habrá pasado la aduana, habrá visto a mamá en la puerta sólo con Loren, no yo, y se habrá pasado todo el viaje en automóvil pensando, ¿dónde está Sophia? Y mamá le habrá dicho: No te preocupes, hablaremos de eso más tarde. Intentando convencerla de que no piense: ¿Dónde está Sophia? con estúpidas preguntas como, ¿Estás bien? ¿El vuelo fue bueno? ¿Estaba bien el clima cuando te fuiste de Ammán?

This has been a busy and wonderful 6 months.

After the disappointment of The Magic Pudding falling by the wayside (no pudding for YOU!), I was thrilled to work further on two other plays for children.

The first, commissioned by Barking Gecko Theatre in Perth and directed by Matt Edgerton, is A Ghost In My Suitcase, an adaptation of Gabrielle Wang’s exciting novel for young readers. This has taken over two years of development work in Melbourne and in Perth (including a final one earlier this year) and I’m excited to say that it opens as part of the Melbourne international Arts Festival, at the Arts Centre in October! Hooray, but wait that’s not all! The production is also on at the Opera House (*squeals and hugs self*) in January 2019 as part of Sydney Festival and then goes on to be part of Perth Festival in February at the Heath Ledger theatre. This is such a fun and wonderfully staged work, with ghost-fighting, goldfish and spinning bits of set and lighting magic.

Captain Dalisay is also a big play for little people, set in a magical ocean with islands of witches, royal dancers and head-hunting kites. It draws on my childhood in Penang Malaysia and my Filipino cultural background. The play received Australia Council funding in the writing stage and Duologue funding from Playwriting Australia in the further development stage. Earlier this year Tantrum Theatre hosted a reading of the current draft at their theatre and it was such a joy to hear those words come off the page. Still a work in progress, redrafting and reshaping and hopefully a final draft for The Big Wide World to come soon.

Almost the whole time, from January to the end of July I have been thinking about one play and it is not one that I’m writing. At the end of last year, I was asked by Stooged Theatre here in Newcastle (they did a great production of my play, Checklist For An Armed Robber a few years back) to direct a play. Not just any play but Angela Betzien’s The Dark Room.

I’ve directed short pieces here and there, but this is my first full length piece and the experience has been incredible. Not just because Angela’s writing is breathtaking and virtuosic, not just because of the heartbreaking content nor the challenging directing task of navigating twists and turns for the fabulous cast who play several narratives and timelines over the top of each other.

My identity as a Playwright has been strangely confronted. I have of course spent time in many rehearsal rooms and worked with some fabulous directors over the years – but as The Playwright, which means I sit usually somewhere towards the back of the room behind the director and watch and timidly answer questions every now and then. But in this rehearsal room, I am the Director (with an essential assistant director) and I have to field the questions and I have to answer or find the answer or say I don’t know but let’s work out this together. It is such a new and exciting experience (as well as tricky and fearful and much bloody hard work). English director Katie Mitchell says, “It is a feeling akin to falling in love” and I think this is true. I am also writing about this experience for myself and exploring the synergy between Playwrighting and Directing. I am falling in love with directing. I realise I was never ready to Direct in this way before now, I really hope I get to do it again.

For most of the last six months, my focus has been on The Hypochondriac, which finished last night to a packed house (a dream come true, seeing the box office line snaking out the door). We started rehearsals in May, but the months preceding were taken up with revisions, auditions and then the reading/workshop which led to more rewrites. It was wonderful to be so intimately involved in this production, and somewhat unusual. As playwrights we don’t always have the opportunity to be part of the conversation around such elements as casting and design, but in this case, I was invited to be, and I very much wanted to be. I spent just about every day in the rehearsal room and saw the show as many times as I could, essentially because it was so much fun. But as of this morning, as I write this, it joins the ranks of Productions Past, and it’s onto the next.

I wrote another episode for Play School, and this month am eagerly anticipating my first ep going to air – look out for Alex and Karen playing with piglets! With composer Greta Gertler Gold, I put the final touches to the recording of our musical The Red Tree: what a thrill to receive the pressed CD, and pop copies in the mail for our loyal backers. I continued working as dramaturg with composer Andrée Greenwell on her ambitious, beautiful and powerful podcast Listen To Me (for which Our Donna was a contributing lyricist), about gendered violence in Australia, and which is now completed and ready to hit the airwaves. And I spent some very happy days in a room with director Kate Champion, cooking up a project that is still under wraps.

As for teaching, I have been working with some sparky minds over at Writing NSW (formerly NSW Writers’ Centre) running a 6-week course called Starting From Scratch, and have just started a From Page To Stage course for Griffin on a fantastic new work called The Almighty Sometimes by Kendall Feaver – Sydneysiders, don’t miss it.

The last six months I’ve travelled to the Perth Writers’ Festival with The Book of Thistles, to England to research a new book and, on a different research trail, to Gibraltar, where amongst other things, I experienced my scariest airport landing ever! Mentally, I’ve been in the Korean War, Ancient Rome and the Australian art world circa 1954.

Evelyn had its origins in 7-ON’s ‘Long Shadows’ and ‘We are the Ghosts of the Future’ projects. A ten-minute monologue, it was produced in Sydney in February as part of Short + Sweet. 

How did a Methodist missionary from Middle America end up broadcasting propaganda for North Korea? My ABC Radio National feature Seoul City Sue is my quest to answer that question. The program was broadcast in April and you can download the podcast here.

Staying with sound, this time with producer Sonar Sound, I wrote Rome: City and Empire Children’s Audio Tour for the forthcoming National Museum of Australia/British Museum exhibition. And co-wrote the Adult Audio Tour as well. Apart from Hadrian’s Wall, various foodstuffs and vaguely remembered school Latin, I knew very little about Ancient Rome. But this project got me researching and reading—Martial, Juvenal, the wonderful Mary Beard and others. It’s sparked my interest in things Roman. We see a lot of Greek drama on our stages, but rarely Roman—yet the Romans pretty much invented satire. There are a couple of Roman plays I’d love to adapt for a twenty-first century audience.

I wrote a new draft of Yellow Yellow Sometimes Blue. Food meets art in this play commissioned by The Q/Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre. Inspired by the history of Penrith Regional Gallery and Lewers Bequest, Yellow Yellow Sometimes Blue takes place over the course of an evening of art and argument, intrigue and spectacular canapés. It’s part of The Joan’s 2018 season and opens in November.

Last but not least, Currency Press are publishing Good With Maps and Teacup in a Storm in a two-play edition (due out September) and my poem Newton’s Windfall will be published in the final issue of the Edinburgh-based journal Far Off Places.

This has been a fruitful though more or less publicly invisible six months. I’ve been working away, as you do, on this doctorate. I wouldn’t want to call it ‘fun’ exactly but…it sort of is. I like research, I quite like the occasional moments of fabulous synthesis, I don’t much like the hard slog of trying to get to those moments, but I’m old enough and experienced enough to pace myself through that side of things these days. And it’s been an adventure to take on the once-was-arcanery of academic conferences. (Also fun in its own way, who knew?)

In order to write the play that is part of the doctorate, late last year I undertook a series of interviews with members of the Polish diaspora in Australia. Tis was both sobering and strangely joyous in the view it gave of human resilience. Then I was lucky enough to be awarded a travel grant that got me to Poland to follow up further research. It’s a beautiful country, but my tasks were mostly fairly grim, and I am still cogitating the fallout of that period. The play, however, is at last taking shape with a workshop at Flinders University planned for this coming August.

And I have been interviewing various Australian playwrights, also for the doctorate, and that’s been something of a privilege to get to know people and their work on a more detailed basis.

There was a re-mount of an old play of mine, an adaptation of Paul Jennings’ The Gizmo at the Adelaide Fringe this year. It goes on in Brisbane in this August as well.

And ... Currency Press will be publishing my last play (2017), Long Tan, in the coming months. So I’ve been getting that document ready, too.

July 19, 2018 is the date I finished the first draft of my novel Damascus (working title). When I say first draft I really mean complete draft because I’ve been writing it on and off for at least five years. I have rewritten as I have gone along. A practice that I (and most people who give advice about writing) don’t usually recommend. Damascus began life as a work of non-fiction and, mainly because the publisher I was talking to said no one would read a book about someone they hadn’t heard of, it then became a work of fiction. For whatever reason, the decision was a good one because it gave me the licence to extrapolate on the years of research I had done, a lifetime really, and create characters whose story is based on truth.

Writing this book has been a deeply personal exercise because it is based on the lives of my parents focussing on immediately before World War 2, when they met, the War and the immediate post war period. It covers the years of 1938 to 1951. It begins in Paris and ends on a dusty road in Central Western NSW. There have been times when writing the book I have so exhilarated by it that I thought I could fly. There have been others when I have been so daunted by it that I have barely been able to put pen to paper. Or, more accurately, been able to start typing. I have been taken to places I had no idea I was going when the characters have somehow infiltrated my brain and driven the story themselves. I might have known the arc of the story, but I have only just discovered how I was going to get there.

Now that I have finished I have gone through the usual writer’s anxieties that, to be perfectly honest, I have never really experienced before.  I don’t know why this is. Not experiencing the anxieties, I mean. I suppose I had so much fun writing all my plays that I never really felt anxious about them. I was always amazed that anyone would want to do them. Everything about my plays was always a bonus until I reached the point where I am now, and no one wants to read them, let alone do them. None of them is autobiographical although each draws on my life experiences and observations. They aren’t personal like Damascus is.

My work of nonfiction, Playground Duty, was so much fun to write I kept pinching myself that I had been commissioned to write it. It was a gift. Everything else I’ve written has been my opinion or observation, occasionally biographical but never really personally confronting. I’ve been more anxious about these things getting published or read than the pieces themselves. All that changed with Damascus. I am now faced with all the challenges we have to make when we finish work. The edit, finding a publisher, getting it out there. All along I was prepared to completely re-examine it once I finished. To be guided by an editor or publisher or anyone else. I was prepared to “kill my babies” as Nick Enright once told me about cutting stuff. After re-reading it I have come to a rather startling conclusion. I’m not going to alter the shape of the story at all. Even if it is boring to others. Or repetitive. Or too old fashioned. This is the story I have always want to tell and I’m going to tell it.

That’s not to say I’m not going to edit because that would be hubristic lunacy. I know it needs a good edit. But the edit is going to happen on my terms. I am not going to compromise the way I have compromised in all my other work. This is too important and too personal not to tell it the way I have imagined it. What I need to do now is find an editor who will travel this journey with me. Wish me luck.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Congratulations, Lachlan!

We are delighted that PlayWriting Australia has chosen Lachlan Philpott as its new artistic director. It's wonderful to have a playwright at the helm, especially one with Lachlan's breadth of experience and engagement with the community. Lachlan's frequently proven his ability to lead and to work for the good of playwrights over the past years.

We'd also like to take this opportunity to thank Tim Roseman for his rigorous and passionate commitment to the job, and for bringing the organisation to the healthy and productive place it's in now.

Congrats Lachlan, and we're looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Thursday, 14 June 2018


Hilary says...

 A playwright doesn’t usually have the luxury of sitting in fulltime on rehearsals, but for ‘The Hypochondriac’ I cleared my diary. With Jo Turner directing this exceptional cast of comic actors, in a play positively exploding with scatological humour, this was an opportunity not to be missed. Here’s a typical day in the rehearsal room.

10 am.
The first thing that happens, as with every day, is that the set must be assembled. We’re rehearsing in the community centre across from the theatre, but because in the evenings the space is given over to trampoline classes and zumba lessons, we have to store away our stuff. So sleeves are rolled up, and it’s all hands on deck rolling out the unwieldy set elements.

While everyone catches their breath, Jo asks about people’s plans. It’s Taco Tuesday at Sophie’s place. Gabriel has a game of Dungeons and Dragons scheduled, he’s Dungeon Master. Jamie confesses to his guilty pleasure, ‘Survivor’: he’s going to his friend’s to watch the final episode, set in Fiji, so they’ll be eating pineapple.

First up, singing practice. The actors are working from demos made by the composer Phillip, who’s American, and Maria, the sound designer, who’s Swedish. So it’s an interesting amalgam of accents they’ve picked up, but strangely appropriate, the style of the adaptation drawing from sources as varied as vaudeville routines to The Muppet Show. Maria’s job has involved creating dozens of sound effects ranging from doorbells to birdsong, from gentle farts to apocalyptic diarrhoea.

11.30 am.
Set, props and costume designer Mikey arrives laden with six homemade dildos (stuffed pantyhose), a string of lacquered sausages, and a pair of fake legs. With his spaniel Carol trotting beside him, it’s a few trips from the car to bring in a toupé for Lucia, fake bosoms for Jamie, bedpans for Darren and blue feather boas for all. Yay!

1 pm.
During lunch there’s a production meeting. Prop turds are passed around the table for approval - a log, and a peaky pile that would make Mr Whippy proud. Poor Verity is still eating... There’s discussion about how to stiffen the fake legs, and the legal issues of audience involvement (no spraying them with the enema; only handing out pills while wearing gloves).

2 pm.
Scene work. This is why it’s useful for the writer to be in the room. At Darren’s command ‘Pass me a bedpan’, Emma grabs the wrong one: “This one’s already got poo in it”. Comedy gold. The line is written in. Lucia raps the window where lovelorn Cléante hovers – it’s a gentle tap but in exactly the wrong spot, and the glass shatters. No harm done but to be certain, she’s sent off to the medical clinic where she has to explain how it happened. “Ooh, a play?” asks the nurse, “What’s it called?” When she hears the title she falls about laughing, and the story must be repeated for the rest of the staff.

4 pm.
Problem: despite the enormous size of Argan’s bed, when six people are dancing the Charleston on it wearing foot-long penises, they get tangled in sheets and stumble on pillows. Further problem: in the moment beforehand, where Toinette and Angelique conspire, what are they actually doing? Various attempts to stage the little scene don’t quite work. Then it falls into place: Toinette’s a servant: she can corral Angelique into making the bed while they scheme, at once solving problems both acting and Manchester.

There are many moments during rehearsals devoted to the technical aspects of comedy, the cool remove needed to look at a joke objectively and see what it takes to make it work. Jo never lets the company forget that what matters most is the story, and there are plenty of hilarious gags that must fall by the wayside in deference to that story and its serious ideas. It’s a critique of a self-absorbed society as well as of the relationship between Big Pharma and unscrupulous doctors. It takes aim at entitled, narcissistic men who treat women as property. And it asks the question, ‘Do we need a certain degree of self-delusion in order to make life bearable?’

5 pm.

The final hour of rehearsal is set aside for more problem-solving. How best to stick on Monica’s moustache? How does Gabriel, playing three different characters, effect 17 costume changes in one scene? How to ensure that everything doesn’t get covered in flying blue feathers? Meanwhile, Mikey is in the back lane wearing a raincoat and goggles, with a tube and a bucket, bravely preparing to test the enema that goes rogue.

6 o’clock and it’s home-time, another satisfying day spent in the service of art. I hope Molière would approve.


 Yesterday a drama teacher asked me if it would be appropriate to bring his class of Year 9 boys to ‘The Hypochondriac’. “Who better?!” I replied. A friend told me her elderly parents, respected members of the Jewish community, had booked tickets. “Who better?!” I replied.

Yes, it’s that type of show. And how often does one look forward to a day at work that ends with the stage manager rinsing brown liquid off a raincoat?

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Announcing the cast of 'The Hypochondriac'!

Moliere's famous comedy, given a shot in the arm by Hilary Bell, and directed by Jo Turner, coming to the Eternity Playhouse in June. For ONE WEEK ONLY, access $44 EARLY BIRD tickets to any performance, excl previews. Use code word EARLYBIRD online at Playing 9 June - 1 July

Sunday, 14 January 2018

What we did the second half of 2017

What on earth have I done in the months since we last updated our group activities? Well, mostly PhD stuff. I’ve been reading and reading, and I’ve written more (draft) chapters of my exegesis, with one completed more or less to my satisfaction. I’ve published a play at the Australian Script Centre (The Red Cross Letters); and I’ve interviewed Polish and Jewish World War II and in some cases extermination camp survivors for the play that will be the creative project part of the PhD. That was pretty humbling. I’ll be travelling to Poland next April to complete the research.

And a play of mine, The Zoo Keeper’s Daughter was a runner up (to a terrific piece by Katie Pollock) in the Griffin sponsored Martin Lysicrates Prize so there was a bit of a reading of that in October this year at the Riverside Theatre.

So. A holding pattern. Which is just fine.

The Arnotts Assorted nature of the first half of 2017 continued, and ramped up, in the second half. My brain changed gears many times (sometimes within the space of a week) between teaching, adapting, rewriting, TV, musicals, and making a cast recording.

The lead-up to October was all about The Red Tree, a musical inspired by Shaun Tan’s picture book for the National Theatre of Parramatta, composed by Greta Gertler Gold, starring Nicola Bowman and directed by Neil Gooding. Greta and I then set to work raising funds to make a recording, which will be out soon.

With first Andrea James and then Bjorn Stewart, I taught a group of exceptional actor/playwrights for PlayWriting Australia’s Muru Salon. I also ran courses for Griffin and the NSW Writers’ Centre.

Following on from the Maxi Shield/AIDS awareness video for ACON I wrote another, about gay men and STIs, voiced by my darling dad.

Thanks to an intro by fellow 7 Vanessa Bates, I wrote my first Play School ep. (piglets!). There were also two development workshops—with director Sarah Giles for Bell Shakespeare, and on a new play with PWA. And I got out my adaptation of Molière’s The Hypochondriac to whittle down cast size and generally make better for the upcoming Darlinghurst Theatre Co production.

In picture-book land, along with my collaborator Antonia Pesenti and the Museum of Sydney we developed and launched Alphabetical Sydney: Creative Lab, an exhibition based on our book that runs at the MoS until August 2018.

Wait, what, is it another new year? Gosh it’s hard to think about the last 6 months of 2017. I know stuff happened because I am totes knackered. But what? Hmmm Ok so all the plays I was working on this time last year are still being worked on …

Trailer is being published by Currency which means proofs and edits etc … Captain Dalisay has been written and worked on and has an ‘early draft reading’ with Tantrum Theatre … A Ghost in my Suitcase is becoming more magical and fabulous and opens in Melbourne later this year! Huzzah! And The Magic Pudding is being its own fabulous, grumpy, spindly legged self. It will open this year too, in Sydney.

There is the making of the web series (All My Eggs) and some theatre directing as well—more on that later.

My sister is still doing brilliantly and …

I have a writing studio! In my backyard! My excellent fellow Christopher built it and I am sitting at the desk as I type, looking out of the recycled leadlight window at the garden. A writing studio, as well as being an excellent place to write in, is also an excellent place to drink champagne in the evening.

That’s a pretty happy new year in anyone’s book.

Everything I did in the second half of 2017 was eclipsed by my work at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. I began working for the RC in 2016, and was part of the team which wrote just under 4000 narratives based on the voices and experiences of survivors who came forward to speak to the Commission. They are available on line here.

In the second half of 2017, I moved into the report co-ordination team which edited, referenced, cross-referenced, end-noted, fact-checked and proof-read the 17 volumes of the Final Report. The findings and recommendations are forensic and unequivocal, and were welcomed by the communities of survivors who had been heard and believed at last. The full report is available on line here.

Working at the Commission was a life-changing experience, one in which power was on the side of the vulnerable, humanity was not overlooked or lost, and our better selves stepped up to the plate. I’ve been reflecting on the fact that I have rarely had an equivalent experience working in the arts, and this fact makes me sad …

By the end of the year I had also taught or mentored about 75 scriptwriting students or emerging playwrights, so I was feeling pretty story-saturated. However, I did have some breakthroughs with my own plays. Jump for Jordan has been included in the 2019-2022 HSC Drama Syllabus, and a sparkly new edition has just been published by Currency Press. It was also selected as one of three Australian plays to be showcased at the 2018 International Women’s Playwrights’ Conference in Santiago, Chile, so I am now trying to get some Spanish under my belt. Also, my play Tales From The Arabian Nights, which was first produced in 2004, clocked up its fifteenth production. In this adaptation, the King is killing refugees rather than queens, and schools in particular produce the play because of its unforeseen enduring relevance.

In the months since leaving the Commission, I have struggled to get back to the land of irony and black comedy, my natural playwriting habitat. However, persistence paid off, and the first draft of my new play Flame Tree Street is alive and well and leading the way.

Still feel totally depressed about Trump, Brexit, the rise of anti-immigrant nationalism in parts of Europe, the plight of the Rohingya, Erdogan’s crackdown on the media in Turkey, not to mention Australia’s ongoing punishment of asylum-seekers and Duffer vilifying Africans to score political points.

On a cheerier note however, marriage equality is now legal and …

The Book of Thistles was released in October. With a play or radio script you rehearse or record and there’s a season or broadcast date, but a book has no opening night or fixed run; you just hope that people somewhere are reading it … Anyway, I’m delighted to have the book in the world. More info about The Book of Thistles—including reviews—on the publisher’s website here.

October also saw me back in Penrith at The Q/Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre working on a new commission, Yellow Yellow Sometimes Blue. The creative development workshop with director Nick Atkins and actors Wadih Dona and Harriet Gordon-Anderson culminated in an open work-in-progress reading at the Penrith Regional Gallery. Yellow Yellow Sometimes Blue will be produced in November as part of The Joan’s 2018 season. Very happy to be collaborating with Nick and the team at The Q/Joan again.

My radio feature Seoul City Sue is now recorded and will go to air early 2018.

What else? Teacup in a Storm, won a 2017 AWGIE Award for Community and Youth Theatre. I did some research in New Zealand for a couple of embryonic projects. Good With Maps had an Edinburgh season, gathered great reviews and co-incidentally reconnected me with two old friends from my London days.

I have been intensely involved this last six months completing my studies in youth work. It has been both a responsibility and a privilege to train and gather experience in the sector. It has also been grounding, stimulating and meaningful because the focus is on strategies for supporting young people and also in engaging in social justice activism.

I have only had small pockets of time to focus on my visual art projects. In the main they have been in response to the occasionally confronting nature of the community sector. I seem to work in cycles from the need to do portraits of colleagues to strange mythological imaginings to the latest series of nature bursting into bloom. A selection of these can be seen on my Instagram feed.

But there has been one writing project that has stayed with me—it's a difficult play that is struggling to be reborn. Luckily the writer and dramaturge Alison Lyssa has, with such generosity of spirit, urged the project on. When I couldn't hold the play in my head anymore she has been able to reflect back what the work is and draw me back into its world. She has supported me to make the unseen connections and troubleshoot how best to push internal logic to the limit visually and psychically. It is a rare gift to be so in tune.

I’ve discovered that writing a novel and having a full time job don’t leave much time for anything else. Every ‘writing’ moment has been consumed by the book I am trying to write. I am now on the home stretch. I can see the finishing post but have no idea when I’ll get there.

This book has been with me for my whole life. It’s fiction based on fact. I’ve found that fictionalising the story has given me a lot of freedom and taken me places I had no idea I’d go. I know the story backwards but I’m only just discovering how it unfolds. This is exciting and scary at the same time. When I sit down to write I often have no idea where I’m going. For instance, yesterday morning I wrote a scene (I can’t help calling them ‘scenes’) set at a christening. I had never thought about a christening, even less that there would be a character called ‘William’ who was getting christened. But, now there are both. That’s the weird and wonderful world I have entered.

There are times when I sit down to write that I doubt whether I can actually write this thing. I’ve never felt this before. Never with any play, or article or story. Certainly not with Playground Duty. I don’t have any idea what this means. I’ve never felt like this about a piece of writing. I’ve never been intimidated by writing something in the way that I am intimidated by this. It’s weird. There are days when I have to force myself write it. That’s never happened before.

Some days are good. Some bad. Like most things really.

I’m writing this from the airport. I’m flying to Katherine to participate in a Creative Development with Lee Lewis, Fraser Corfield, Tommy Lewis and Errol Lawson. I haven’t worked in the theatre for so long I can barely remember what it’s like! Who knows what will come of it?

Who knows when I’ll finish my book? All I do know is I’ll be back teaching full time at the end of January so I better get cracking.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

THE RED TREE: Still time to catch the show, and Kickstarter campaign

Hilary says:

"Welcome to the final act:
Welcome to my gastrointestinal tract."

So sings the evil fish as he prepares to digest our heroine.
You still have a chance to see this actually happening, live on stage - 'The Red Tree' closes on Saturday night, and plays two shows a day until then.
Find times and tickets here.

The creative team is very proud of what we've created, and the show has had only rave reviews.

Meanwhile, you still have time to pre-order your original cast recording! Our Kickstarter campaign is kicking on for another 6 days. A mere $15 buys you a digital download, $25 for a CD, and there are plenty of other tantalising rewards all the way up to commissioning a song especially for you, by myself and composer Greta Gertler Gold. Make your pledge here!

A massive thanks to all who have already contributed, for their support of new Australian work and particularly for original Australian musicals.

Photo credits: Noni Carroll