Set in a fictional post-colonial Tasmania, way back when sees Ghost, a take-no-nonsense apparition, set the scene for the meeting of an unlikely trio of three women. To pass the time (and forget the cold), they re-imagine the colonisation of Tasmania as a Gothic revenge drama. There’s comedy, a play-within-a-play and, as their connection to each other strengthens, revelations of personal traumas which steadily undermine the fervour of their collective revisionism.
Van Den Berg was awarded the $10,000 prize for way back when in a ceremony which was held online due to the temporary closure of the SBW Stables Theatre. More than 130 entries were assessed anonymously by a panel of artists and whittled down to five shortlisted plays, each of whom took home $1,000.
The shortlisted plays comprised of: Never Closer by Grace Chapple, 44 Sex Acts in One Week by David Finnigan, Curiosity by Daley Rangi and LuNa by Keziah Warner. Four leading industry professionals including: Shari Sebbens, Hilary Bell, Michele Lee and Griffin’s Artistic Director, Declan Greene, then reviewed the shortlist and chose Van Den Berg’s way back when as this year’s winner.
“The shortlist for this year’s Griffin Award was really remarkable: five plays of huge originality, innovation, and humanity,” said Greene. “But the judges were unanimous in selecting way back when – we were blown away by the poetry of Dylan’s voice, and the incredible scope of the drama he has penned.”
On winning the 2020 Griffin Award, Van Den Berg said, “I’m beyond excited – stunned, really – to receive this award, particularly in the company of such brilliant writers, all of whom I admire, and whose work I will continue to follow with great interest,” he said.
“way back when is about four Aboriginal women telling a big exhausting, heart-rending story, which details their resilience in the face of colonisation. I feel very proud to tell this story and have it recognised by Australia’s premier new work theatre company,” said Van Den Berg.
Dylan Van Den Berg is a Palawa writer with family connections to the northeast of Tasmania. His plays include Milk (The Street Theatre), The Camel (Fringe at the Edge), Why am I a Fish? (Short+Sweet) and Blue: a misery play (First Seen/The Street Theatre).
His work has been shortlisted for the Patrick White Playwrights Award, the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award and the Rodney Seaborn Playwrights Award. Van Den Berg studied drama at ANU and the State University of New York.
The Griffin Award is a national competition which celebrates an outstanding play or performance text that displays an authentic, inventive and contemporary Australian voice. The award has a rich history of recognising new talent and propelling forward the careers of emerging Australian writers.
Previous winners include Lachlan Philpott, Debra Oswald, Brendan Cowell, Mary Rachel Brown and Suzie Miller. Angus Cerini’s The Bleeding Tree took out the Award in 2014 and went on to win the NSW Premier’s Literary Award and the Helpmann Award for Best Play in 2016. The Griffin Award is generously supported by Copyright Agency Cultural Fund. For more information, visit: www.griffintheatre.com.au for details.
Image: Dylan Van Den Berg (supplied)