Tom's picks for May

16 May 2013

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 Debra Oswald

by Donna Abela

Recommended for schools

This month I have chosen two plays by women; Skate by Debra Oswald and an adaptation of Tales From the Arabian Nights by Donna Abela. They are strongly contrasted in that Skate is set firmly in our world, in a contemporary Australian town and speaks directly to the issues and challenges that we face here and now. Tales is of course a fantasy piece, a collection of rich and exotic fables, but none the less, full of riches about the big themes – love, jealousy and just being alive.
Debra Oswald is one of Australia’s most loved playwrights. She has a wonderful gift for writing strong, simple and funny characters and has an uncanny knack of getting inside the ‘outsiders’ in her plays. She writes with great empathy and a wonderful sense of the ridiculous. Skate is all about ‘the people versus the system’, in this case, a group of kids trying to get the local council to build them a skate park. This is not just a feel-good piece about standing up to the system and winning, even though the battle for the park is won. This is also threaded with a much darker sub-plot, which gives the piece complexity and depth.
Tales From the Arabian Nights was written for Kim Carpenter’s Theatre of Image and therefore has, at first sight, some impossible ideas – heads floating off and disappearing in to walls, for example! But of course, the stories are classics and the power is, as always, in the way they’re told. I’ve picked this because it has a lot of different stories that could possibly be done on their own, or in different orders if necessary. It has many, characters – colourful, comic, scary and huge and would be great for students who are looking for something with an edge of fantasy and magic. 

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by Raimondo Cortese

by Damien Millar

Recommended for tertiary study

Holiday by Melbourne playwright Raimondo Cortese is one of a suite of works written for (and with) Ranters Theatre, a company that was co-founded by Cortese (with his brother, director Adriano and a company of graduates from the VCA). Over the past 20 odd years, they have developed a huge national and international reputation for their work, which is deeply rooted in a sense of the real, yet highly theatricalised at the same time. It is a demanding work for two actors, who spend their entire time in a small swimming pool. This gentle and subtle text is all about two men who are somehow escaping from the world, their conversation, apparently light and fragmented, disguises a deep sadness. This is a tremendously moving text, delicate and deceptively difficult, but a great challenge to pull off.
Damien Millar’s The Modern International Dead was commissioned by the (then) Artistic Director of Griffin Theatre, Nick Marchand. Millar initially developed a performance text for the Sydney Theatre Company based on the classic book Emergency Sex, about aid workers. When the rights became unavailable, Millar, undaunted, went out to interview Australian aid workers about their experience in war zones around the world. The result is a vivid and beautifully shaped text that takes the audience right into the centre of the on-the-ground experience of people in the middle of international conflicts. This is a text that rockets from images of horror to genuinely funny and deeply personal stories, interwoven and juxtaposed with a skillful touch that keeps the show immediate and powerful. Great characters with timely and gutsy content this one is just waiting to be done!

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by Gary Abrahams

by Lachlan Philpot

Recommended for community theatre

This month I have picked two plays that, even though I reckon they’d both be corkers for community companies, are completely opposite. They are an adaptation of Therese Raquin by Gary Abrahams and Colder by Lachlan Philpott.
Therese Raquin is based on the famous 19th century French novel of the same name by Emile Zola. It was commissioned by the Melbourne Theatre Company and developed by Playwriting Australia. It’s a sort of prototypical film noir story, except that, in Zola’s hands, the heroine is almost forced into an affair through her terrible circumstances (rather than the noir-esque vamps of the 20th century Hollywood versions). Abrahams is a director, actor and dramaturg as well as playwright and he brings all of these skills to this adaptation. It is tight and tense, loaded with sexuality, guilt and suspense. It would make a great addition to a season as a ‘classic’ in the mix. And, of course, not only great roles, but great potential for frocks as well!
Colder by Lachlan Philpott is a contemporary story, also in the ‘thriller’ tradition about a man who goes missing – or possibly just vanishes. It travels back and forth in time and as it does so, it becomes apparent that this is the second ‘vanishing’ – it has happened once before when he was a boy. It’s tantalizing, mysterious and very moving with great roles and crackling poetic language. This is a challenging and extraordinary piece of writing from Philpott and a great ensemble piece for actors.

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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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