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It is an enormous privilege for us at AustralianPlays to be publishing Nathan Maynard’s The Season in our Red Door series, not just because it is one of the hottest new Australian plays of 2017, and not just because it is an all-indigenous project, but also because it is written by one of Tasmania’s own. We are a national organisation with a national focus, but because our head office is located in Salamanca Place in Hobart, we get a thrill when a Tassie writer makes such a strong national impact.
The Season premiered at this year’s Sydney Festival, programmed by Wesley Enoch, where it was an immediate hit. It has toured to Tasmania and opens on October 12th as part of the 2017 Melbourne International Festival. It was lovingly developed by Tasmania Performs, under the leadership of Annette Downs and the Yellamundie Festival at Carriageworks in Sydney.
The Season is first and foremost a family play and is based on Maynard’s recollections and experiences as a mutton birder on the Bass Straight. One of the brilliant things about this text is that it hangs on an activity – mutton birding – that most of us know nothing about. As the title suggests, there is a season each year where the mutton birds are collected from their burrows, broken down for meat, oil and feathers, and sold (though, as Maynard points out in one interview, this was originally a trading arrangement). This is a practice that goes back over countless generations and there is an enormous sense of this history in the work, even though it never really directly addresses that.
And this is the huge feature of this writing. So much is present in this play by inference, so much is left for us to construct and to think about as we follow this amazing (fictional) family – the Duncans – through this particular season. Big Dog Island, where this play is set is uninhabited for most of the year. And when the 5 week season comes, it is a brilliant excuse for families whose contemporary lives mean that they are geographically scattered to come together and spend some concentrated time. It’s a classic dramaturgical structure – put all your characters together in one space where they can’t escape and watch them go!
And go they do. This is not a play that depends on a suspenseful narrative. It’s not even particularly plot driven. Its pearls come from its beautiful characters and their interaction. The experience of sitting with these characters, the honour we are given by being allowed to just sit on the sidelines and observe this amazing bunch of people is both enlightening and deeply moving. And really, really funny!
LATEST RELEASE: THE SEASON
THE SEASON: Set in Bass Strait, The Season is written by Tasmanian Aboriginal writer and performer Nathan Maynard. His voice is as sharp as a tack and as blunt as a brick, and with it he tells a disarming, funny story with a crucial point to make; “We’re still here”.
Amid the bird gurry and tiger snakes, Aunty Marlene’s roving eye and the threat of Pop blowing a pooper valve, the Duncans reconnect with country and culture.
Hatchets are buried, secrets revealed, pranks pulled, deep connections made – and all within a family bursting with love and always up for a laugh.
Little known outside the Tasmanian Aboriginal community, “the birding” is an exuberantly lively expression of culture, here lovingly evoked by playwright Nathan Maynard, a descendant of the chief of the Trawlwoolway Clan of North East Tasmania. Nathan knows those hot, cramped, feather-daubed work sheds first hand, and his hilarious plain-speaking play has the ring of absolute authenticity.
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