Script in Hand – MTC launches Cybec Electric playreading series

They’ve done it again! Melbourne Theatre Company is throwing open its doors for a brand-new play reading series called Cybec Electric. Launching tonight and running for the month of February in The Lawler, Southbank, this exciting new initiative will feature semi-staged readings of works from five hot playwrights.

S. Shakthidharan
S. Shakthidharan

Brought to life by teams of talented actors and directors, the Cybec Electric program will give audiences a glimpse of new Australian works that could very well end up on the MTC mainstage in years to come. One of the works being featured is A Counting and Cracking of Heads by Sri Lankan/Australian writer/director, S. Shakthidharan.

It’s hard to explain what Shakthi does without simply saying, ‘everything’. In addition to his role as founding Artistic Director of Curious Works, he is the inaugural associate artist at Carriageworks, Sydney. A filmmaker, theatre maker, writer, director, and artist, Shakthi is also a champion of community arts and social change.

Though he didn’t train in the arts (“Most of my family are lawyers and doctors – they didn’t see the arts as a real job”), after years of working in media, Shakthi decided to step out and apply for an arts grant. And he got it. All of a sudden an arts career seemed possible.

Time and again over the years that have followed, Shakthi’s work has proven that art plays a major role in community development, economic development, and social change. His company, Curious Works, operates within a community arts framework that allows time and space for stories to emerge before projects and mediums are decided. This holistic approach has proven to be a unique, and very effective, model.

As a creative, Shakthi lives two extremes. Half of his week is spent immersed in collaboration within his community arts model, and the other half of the week is spent on his laptop, writing solo.

“My process is more layered than your typical process of art making. I’ll work with community over a number of years and won’t be focused on a particular medium. Out of the bed of stories and community collaboration will come particular projects and then we decide on the medium best suited. For example, in film there are a lot of different shots – you dictate what the audience sees and can take them on a very particular journey. For me theatre is one, long wide-shot. The audience decides what to look at.”

Cybec ElectricHis latest play, A Counting and Cracking of Heads will be performed twice as part of the Cybec Electric program. A true collaboration, this MTC initiative comes complete with a rehearsal space, casting advice and the chance to work alongside an MTC dramaturg each day.

Shakthi is thankful for the opportunity to see what the play feels like at its fullest.

“It’s about three hours! It’s an epic story of one family across four generations. I’ve never done a reading of it with actors before, so this is a chance to get feedback and develop the script”.

In addition to looking at how civil war broke out in Sri Lanka, A Counting and Cracking of Heads is also the story of a young boy who has embraced life in Australia. Shakthi says, “[The boy] doesn’t understand his heritage, but is forced to rediscover his roots due to an external situation that happens.”

“I’m Sri Lankan-Australian. Telling this story of my community, you have to understand that each person has their own perspective and idea of what they think the truth of a situation is. Theatre is able to offer the audience all of those different truths on stage at the same time, and then leaves a full picture of something in all its glorious complexity. It’s up to the audience to decide what they want to do with those multiple truths. You read a headline in a newspaper about a refugee that has arrived in Australia, and it’s hard for people to understand the complexity of what that family goes through. This is my attempt to present the full picture, and full complexity, of something.”

Also featuring new works by Sue Smith, Declan Greene and Kylie Trounson, MTC’s Cybec Electric will kick off tonight with The Visitors written by Jane Harrison and directed by Leah Purcell.

If you’ve never seen a semi-staged play reading, this is your chance. Think actors finding their way, script in hand, traces of character and a sense of adventure. It’s a privilege to experience a new work in its raw and almost gritty first form. MTC is making this possible. And all for as little as $5 a pop!

Venue: Southbank Theatre, The Lawler

Season dates: 6 February to 22 February 2014

Tickets: All readings $10 each ($40 for a 5-play pass)
Under 30s $5 each ($20 for a 5-play pass)

Booking details: Southbank Theatre Box Office on 03 8688 0800 or

Twitter: #mtcCybec or follow @MelbTheatreCo

Cybec Electric is proudly supported by the Cybec Foundation

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