There was a wonderful response to The Silver Gull Play Award competition this year, with over 40 plays submitted for the chance to share in a total prize pool of $5,000 courtesy of sponsor The Buzz From Sydney.
The judging panel read, assessed and discussed each submission, multiple times. The identity of the writers was kept anonymous, thus the shortlist truly reflects a determination made on merit, solely on the quality of writing. The shortlist comprises four professional actors (!), a former journalist from a CaLD background, and one of Australia’s most established playwrights.
The scripts were of a very high standard, responding with imagination, intelligence and insight to the brief for plays that speak to New Theatre’s ethos of ‘Plays With a Purpose’, engaging with contemporary society and the challenges that we face. The high standard of writing and depth of investigation of the human condition on display certainly demonstrates the strength and diversity of playwriting in this country.
The shortlist of plays includes;
Victim by Jeanette Cronin
Jeanette Cronin has worked extensively as an actor in theatre, film and television and is a graduate of the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA). Jeanette’s first play Tell Me Again, produced by Eye Of The Storm, premiered at The Old 505 Theatre in December 2014 and in July 2019 received a workshop and rehearsed reading at the Arcola Theatre in London. In February 2015, Jeanette co-devised with director, Peter Mountford, the one-woman show Queen Bette, about the life of screen legend Bette Davis, produced by G Bod Theatre for Mardi Gras 2015 at The Old 505 Theatre, with return seasons in March 2016 and February 2019 at The Old 505, October 2016 at The Hunter Valley Summer Theatre Festival and January 2020 at Gasworks Arts Park for Melbourne’s Midsumma Festival. Jeanette’s second play I Hate You My Mother, produced by Real Harpy and Whitebox, premiered at The Old Fitz in January 2017, and her third play I Love You Now premiered at The Eternity Playhouse for Darlinghurst Theatre Company in June 2017. 2020 commissions include Shattered, the Australian component of LockEdown in Silence, an international project reflecting the spike in domestic violence during the COVID 19 pandemic, directed by acclaimed Turkish theatre-maker, Baris Celiloglu and Come To Where I Am—Australia, produced by Critical Stages and Paines Plough.
God’s Gruesome Shadow on the Wall by Kian Farzam
Kian Farzam was born in 1977 in Iran, at the dawn of the last revolution of the twentieth century and a forthcoming bloody war. He says he was destined to be a writer, due to the drama-ridden air he was breathing since he was a child. After four years working as a journalist, he decided to leave the country and in 2007 he packed his life into one suitcase and moved to Australia to start a new life. Arriving in a country where people spoke and wrote a different language, it took him ten years to write his first play in English, all the while working to survive, an on-going struggle. God’s Gruesome Shadow on the Wall is Kian’s fourth play.
The Scream by Justin Fleming
Justin Fleming is one of Australia’s most established playwrights. His plays include Hammer (Ensemble Theatre/Festival of Sydney); The Cobra, Harold In Italy, The Ninth Wonder (Sydney Theatre Company); A Land Beyond the River and Junction (NIDA/Bakehouse/Bondi Pavilion). He translated and adapted Moliere’s Tartuffe (The Hypocrite) for Melbourne Theatre Company, Bell Shakespeare Company, Black Swan and Queensland Theatre, and The School for Wives for Bell Shakespeare Company’s national tour. Burnt Piano (Belvoir/MTC/Herbert Berghof Playwrights’ Theater, New York/Dallas Theatre Centre, Mainstage, Hobart/Ensemble Theatre) won the New York New Dramatists’ Award and was selected as the inaugural play for the MTC/Centaur Theatre Exchange, Montréal. Coup D’Etat (MTC/Western Canada Theatre/Bakehouse/Riverside Theatres) was shortlisted for the Patrick White Award and won the Banff PlayRites Residency. The Department Store (Old Fitzroy/Parnassus’ Den) and His Mother’s Voice (ATYP/Bakehouse) both won the Mitch Mathews Award. Origin was produced at The Art of Evolution Conference, the Courtauld Institute, London and the Art Gallery of NSW. Shellshock was commissioned by Riverside Theatres and Justin’s translation of Molière’s Les Femmes Savantes, The Literati and The Misanthrope by Griffin Theatre Co. and Bell Shakespeare. Justin is librettist for The Merry Widow and Whiteley (Opera Australia), Crystal Balls (Compact Opera/Sadler’s Wells), Tess of the D’Urbervilles (Thor Productions/Savoy Theatre, London), music by Stephen Edwards, and Satango, with music by Stewart D’Arrietta (Griffin/Riverside/Las Vegas Theatre Company). Dresden, was part of KXT’s 2018 Sydney Season. The Miser was part of Bell Shakespeare’s 2019 season, starring John Bell. Justin is the author of Stage Lines – Writing Scripts for the Stage and A Molière Anthology, published by Phoenix.
Gods and Little Fishes by Jamie Oxenbould and Richard Sydenham
Jamie Oxenbould has been an actor for over 30 years and has worked for most of the major theatre companies in Sydney – most recently in Family Values (Griffin), The Miser (Bell Shakespeare), Trevor (Outhouse), The Hypochondriac (Darlinghurst Theatre), The Village Bike (Old Fitz), Baby Doll (Ensemble), The Literati (Griffin and Bell), The Dapto Chaser (Apocalypse), and Good Works (Darlinghurst). He has appeared on TV shows including Secret City 2, My Place and as a Playschool Presenter. He played the lead role in the as-yet-unreleased film Being Gavin in 2017. He has worked consistently in the voice-over industry voicing commercials as well as characters for many animations including Oh Yuck, Gasp, I Got a Rocket, Raggs and Tabaluga. In 2012 he wrote and performed the one man show The Spearcarrier at the Ensemble Theatre. He has written for many comedy and reality programs, and written and directed short films which screened at Flickerfest, St Kilda Film Festival, Tropfest, BOFA, Adelaide Film Festival and LA Shorts Festival.
Richard Sydenham is a NIDA graduate and has notched up an impressive list of stage credits as an actor. Productions include The Dapto Chaser (Griffin Theatre + tour), Absent Friends, Clybourne Park, Murderers (Ensemble Theatre), Macbeth, Twelfth Night, The Alchemist, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Henry IV 1 & 2, Coriolanus (Bell Shakespeare), Rock ‘n’ Roll (Melbourne Theatre Company), The Tempest, The Fortunes of Richard Mahony, Love for Love (Sydney Theatre Company), Twelfth Night, The Underpants, Eskimo Calling, The Small Poppies, The Marriage of Figaro (Belvoir). On the small screen he’s been busy with roles in Love Child, Gina v Rose: The House of Hancock, Wonderland, Carlotta, Power Games: The Packer Murdoch Story, Rake, All Saints, Changi, and Water Rats, in addition to numerous appearances on Home & Away. Richard was asked to participate in the Lysicrates Prize earlier this year, where he read an excerpt from the prize-winning piece, Approximate Balance. Feature film work includes Blood Pulls a Gun and Matrix 2.
The Park by Simon Thomson
Simon Thomson is a graduate of the ANU with Honours in Drama and from the Sydney Theatre School with an Advanced Diploma of Arts (Acting). Previous acting theatre credits include ‘Steve’ in The Shadow Box (Old Fitz Theatre), ‘Frank’ in Van De Maar Papers (Old 505), ‘Fat Cherry’ in That Eye, The Sky (New Theatre), Pool, No Water (STS), ‘Provost’ in Measure for Measure (ANU), ‘Caliban’ in The Tempest (STS) ‘Angelo’ in Measure for Measure (STS, toured to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival), ‘Scripps’ in The History Boys (Papermoon Theatre Company), ‘Azdak’ in The Caucasian Chalk Circle (ANU), ‘Lenny’ in Marisol (Grad Co/Sydney Fringe) and ‘Leon/Nick’ in Speaking In Tongues (Grad Co/Chippen St Theatre). Directing credits include Stephen Berkoff’s Brighton Beach Scumbags (ANU), CageFish, which he also wrote and appeared in as ‘John’ (Grad Co/Terminal at the Factory Theatre), and Trainspotting (Grad Co /Limelight on Oxford).