2015 had been the year of the big gamble, and it had paid off. A different kind of gamble in 2016 – the weather. The clouds were heavy that day, and the sun sporadic. What about the enchanted outdoor procession from the Conservatorium, through the Botanic Gardens, down to the Lysicrates Monument? Cancel, or risk it? We risked it.
Inside the Conservatorium, the audience was bigger. There had been more entrants. And after last year, the anticipation was fizzing even more. The first play, Saint Theo, aimed high, a tough high-wire act between tragedy and farce. Like last year, the actors were performing script in hand after only three days of rehearsal, and they were astonishingly good.
For the second play, Approximate Balance, there was a great change of gear. An innovative setting, a family convulsion, a gradual discovery – it brought tears to many eyes, and was greeted with one of theatre’s most precious raves – half a minute’s silence at the end.
The third play, The Good Wolf, another clever bringing together of tears and laughter, with the Holocaust as background.
How lucky we were in the quality of this writing! Australia is marvellously rich in writing talent.
In the end, it didn’t rain. The enchanted procession happened. They danced, they ate, they argued. Just what we wanted. When the winner, Mary Rachel Brown, the author of Approximate Balance, was announced, she endeared herself to everyone by bursting into tears.
The magic had struck again.
2016 Winner: Mary Rachel Brown
The 2016 Finalists
Playwright: Campion Decent
A dark comedy of one man’s experience of life, death, sex and Gilbert and Sullivan. An apathetic thespian, Theodore, couldn’t be happier to be struck by lightning. He celebrates in a country graveyard with a mysterious young visitor and a woman in a pirate hat. Follow him on his philosophical quest, punctuated by show tunes. Is he a saint or a sinner? The devil isn’t keen on recruiting a virgin and heaven has its doubts.
Playwright: Mary Rachel Brown
A story that questions and tests the limits of familial love and obligation. It follows the Lightfoot family as they struggle to overcome the damage occasioned by their son’s addiction. The battle to separate the past from the present, and the addiction from the person, seems impossible. A young Filipino woman offers the family a unique perspective on how to heal, and proves we can find family where we least expect it.
The Good Wolf
Playwright: Elise Hearst
Loosely based on Elise’s experience of her Jewish identity, The Good Wolf delves into questions of identity and legacy. What do we owe our ancestors who struggled, fought, and lost so much, so that we might exist? Do we owe them allegiance to our faith and community? Naomi wrestles with these philosophical questions through many encounters with her past, present, and future. A romantic comedy crossed with drama and tragedy.