Our May picks for schools
John Kachoyan - AustralianPlays.org Literary Manager
Both plays this month were written more than 20 years ago but both, in their various and very different ways, continue to tackle issues of great currency for young people. The first (The Diver by Peta Murray) is aimed at the upper-primary/lower secondary age group and the second (A Property of the Clan by Nick Enright) is most definitely for upper secondary students only.
Peta Murray has written some of Australia’s finest plays, including the ever-popular Wallflowering and her Mother/daughter epic, Salt. She began her working life as a teacher and has written many plays for school-age audiences. The Diver tackles that well-known dilemma: what to do after your parents divorce, you move and you have to start again? With an endearing and beautifully smart and resilient central character, Ziggy Baddeley, Murray’s story of making a new self is poignant and very funny. Full of great scenes and monologues for young actors (as well as the chance to ham it up as grown-ups) this is an iPhone and technology free option.
The greatly loved and greatly missed Nick Enright wrote A Property of the Clan in the wake of the murder of Newcastle teenager, Leigh Rennae Mears (Leigh Leigh). In asking myself why I picked this play I gave myself cause to really stop and think. So much literature and art surrounding young people is centred around darkness. Is that helping? Should we be making more of an effort to bring happiness and optimism to the work – should we be celebrating more? And of course the answer is ‘yes’ – at the very least balance is important, but this is a fine and very sensitive play that tackles far more than the brute facts. It examines the way in which teenagers bind together and has a salutary message about the importance of being yourself, no matter how hard a task that can seem in early adulthood. When a young girl is murdered at the hands of one of her male contemporaries, what is the aftermath? How will her friends cope? How can such violence be understood? Commissioned by Newcastle’s Freewheels Theatre Co, A Property of the Clan deals with these issues with honesty, sensitivity and intelligence.
Tom Healey, Literary Manager