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
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
“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.”
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.
This is playwriting at its best with humorous inferences to Australian politics,
the media and the entertainment industry.
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.
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
A transcript link of Andrew’s full speech