Tom's picks for May

30 May 2012

The latest recommendations from our Literary Manager



Each month Tom delves into our extensive catalogue and suggests plays suitable for classroom use, for tertiary study and performance and for community theatre groups. You can also get these recommendations delivered via email, by signing up here.



by Alana Valentine

by Toby Schmitz

Recommended for schools

The plays I have chosen this month have dark subjects and are definitely in the year 11 to 12 age range. Both writers are based in Sydney and both have been consistently produced over the past few years.
Alana Valentine is well known for her use of verbatim text as inspiration for her work. Eyes to the Floor is a kind of sequel to her play, Parramatta Girls, which was produced at Company B, Belvoir a few years ago, directed by the then associate Wesley Enoch. There is a strong social justice focus in Valentine’s writing and this play is no exception, dealing as it does with the history of the ‘correctional’ treatment of young women at one particularly extreme institution.
Toby Schmitz’s background is as an actor. He has appeared for most major theatre companies around the country as well as having a sustained presence in television and film. Capture the Flag started life in Sydney and then was subsequently toured extensively by Critical Stages throughout Australia. It is a beautiful and powerful imagining of three young boys, all members of the Hitler Youth, waiting and watching from a drain as the city of their leader’s dreams, Berlin, is occupied by the Russians. The war, along with their childhood world as they have known it, comes to an end.

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by Patricia Cornelius 


by Robert Reid 

Recommended for tertiary study

Patricia Cornelius and Robert Reid are two of the most interesting playwrights writing in Australia at the moment. Both resident in Melbourne, they have been produced nationally and, over the past couple of years, Patricia has won just about every award it is possible for a playwright to win in this country.

Love by Cornelius is an astonishing piece of writing—bleak and spare, poetic and spiky-real at the same time it is a play about young people who are at the pointy end of life. There are many clichés about love – that it conquers all, that it will hold us together etc – and this play puts all of our assumptions about this most overwrought emotion through a spin-dryer of irony. It is tough, uncompromising and curiously moving. A great three hander with awesome possibilities for actors, designers and directors.

Apart from having one of the great titles of the collection, Portraits of Modern Evil is a daring, poetic and imaginative rethinking of our recent past. Combining fine art, war and schlock true-crime, Reid creates a fictional, historical collision, the fall-out of which is a beautifully etched dissection of the violence in our collective soul.

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by Campion Decent 

by Michael Gow

Recommended for community theatre

I had the privilege of having had something to do with the birth of the first play I have chosen this month—Embers by Campion Decent. It was commissioned and developed by Hothouse Theatre (I was then associated with Hothouse) and the Sydney Theatre Company and it's a verbatim play based on accounts of the devastating bushfires in Victoria in 2003. Its power comes not so much from the evocation of the actual fires (although these sequences are very powerful) but more from the sense of community that these stories describe and inspire. Terrible events like bushfires or floods demand extraordinary responses and Embers is the story of one such experience. I have included it this month not only for its power as a piece, but also because it has so many wonderful roles for actors.


Europe by Michael Gow also has wonderful roles—but only two.  It’s an early play by Gow, which I first saw in 1987 at the Stables in Sydney, starring Gillian Jones. It concerns the relationship between an actress ‘of a certain age’ and her young Australian admirer – a classic stage-door johnnie. They have had a torrid affair whilst she was on tour in Australia and now he has pursued her to Europe, hoping for…  many things, which is what the play is really all about. Barbara and Douglas are versions of their respective cultures: she is European, chic, sophisticated, world-weary and depressed; he is young, eager, thirsty for ‘culture’ and a taste of the high life. Europe is a simple play about a complex subject, but its articulation of our post-Colonial desire to ‘count’ on the world stage is beautifully embodied in this romantic and emotional duet.

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Since graduating from the Victorian College of the Arts and Music (VCAM) in 1989 Tom Healey has worked as an actor, a director and a dramaturg with companies and projects around the nation. Positions held include Curator of the Australian National Playwrights’ Conference (2006), Artistic Associate of Playbox (1999-2003), Artistic Directorate (Hothouse Theatre 2006-09), Casting Consultant and Artistic Counsel (Malthouse Theatre 2005-07) and Panellist (Arts Victoria Performance Panel). As a dramaturg he has worked with Australian playwrights both emerging and established, and he has directed premieres of many new Australian works. He has also directed and developed works in contemporary opera, cabaret and music theatre and taught at the universities of Melbourne, Ballarat and La Trobe as well as the VCAM and NIDA. Tom is currently the Literary Manager of the Australian Script Centre.

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