The National Play Festival 2014

 

Playwriting Australia and Carriageworks has just completed the best

play festival Australia has ever had. Together they have set a high

ethical standard of diversity in Australian theatre and playwriting

history.

 

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On opening night, Andrew Bovell addressed racism and said that

Australia is a racist country and our ”dominantly white” theatres are

making no progress towards colour-blind casting, telling multicultural

stories or provoking audiences to address racism.

 

”It is something Australia is still not addressing. We have to identify

[racism’s] roots and we have to take responsibility both in terms of the

indigenous question – something that really matters to me – and to the

question of asylum seekers.”

 

He goes on to say that the theatre stages are still dominated by Anglo-Australian

stories and actors and believes it stems from long-standing institutionalised

racism.

 

“As a community we need to brace ourselves and put our heads together

otherwise we risk losing our best and brightest of a new generation of writers

for lack of opportunity and support. If we fail to nurture them and challenge

them and produce them all we have left is Shakespeare, Chekhov, Ibsen,

Strindberg, Miller, Williams and so on. All fine playwrights but it’s tomorrow’s

canon we need to look after.”

 

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MOTHS

Director: Lee Lewis
Dramaturg: Mark Pritchard
Cast: Aileen Huynh, Haiha Le, Lap Phan, John Shrimpton, Pearl Tan and Harry Tseng

 

One of the stand out plays of the festival was MOTHS by Michele Lee.

A play reading with six Asian Australian actors. A modern take on

“the play within a play” concept. It starts off with a conversation between six

characters which is rather explicit and sexual and then the audience is taken on

a journey with these characters which spans over 30 years. Stand out comedic

moments in the play is when Haiha Le does an impressive Geraldine Doogue

impersonation and Pearl Tan plays Senator Penny Wong.

 

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Haiha Le

 

This is playwriting at its best with humorous inferences to Australian politics,

the media and the entertainment industry.

 

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Aileen Huynh and Pearl Tan

 

What I admire about this play is that it covers a broad range of

social issues and topics, it doesn’t just follow the characters’

relationships with one another but it covers society’s ideologies,

stereotypes, politics, the entertainment industry and so much more.

MOTHS has a strong ensemble cast, led by Harry Tseng.

This is modern playwriting at its best.

 

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THIEVES

Director: Corey McMahon

Dramaturg: Jane Bodie
Cast: Blazey Best, Colin Friels, Haiha Le, Pearl Tan and Dan Wyllie

 

Another outstanding play in the festival is Thieves by Kathryn Ash.

Thieves is a wonderful play depicting “rough urban Australian naturalism

in a world of a bottle shop.” The play had strong performances by the leads –

Dan Wyllie and Blazey Best. The casting of the two supporting roles – the

alcoholic mother (played by Pearl Tan) and her abused daughter (played by

Haiha Le), is also to be commended.

 

Not only did these actors play their roles convincingly but they were not casted

specifically for their race but purely because of their talent. I congratulate the

director and the writer for making these choices.

 

Finally, I applaud Playwriting Australia and Carriageworks for leading the way in

Australian playwriting and theatre and look forward to see other theatre

companies and playwrights follow in their footsteps. As we want to see more

modern plays of this calibre that reflect our society as it stands today. There will

always be a place for Shakespeare ( and I hope to see Multicultural / Indigenous

actors play leading roles) and plays with historical references, but this is the

21st century. Thank you for moving with the times!

Video link to Andrew’s speech

https://soundcloud.com/playwritingaustralia/andrew-bovell-keynote-address-national-play-festival-2014

A transcript link of Andrew’s full speech

http://dailyreview.crikey.com.au/andrew-bovell-i-as-an-australian-playwright-am-up-for-the-fight/

 

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