Malthouse Theatre announces Malcolm Robertson Foundation Commissions and 2023/24 Artist in Residence recipient

Malthouse-Theatre-Wendy-Mocke-Vivian-Nguyen-and-Joe-Paradise-LuiMalthouse Theatre has announced Wendy Mocke and Vivian Nguyen as recipients of the 2023 Malcolm Robertson Foundation Commissions and Joe Paradise Lui as the Artist in Residence.

Papua New Guinean interdisciplinary storyteller and a NIDA Acting graduate, Wendy Mocke will develop Kirk’s Backyard (My First Caucasian Play) as a Malcolm Robertson Foundation Commission, while Asian Australian playwright and actor, Vivian Nguyen will develop Cocaine Bust.

Wendy Mocke is a Papua New Guinean interdisciplinary storyteller and a NIDA Acting graduate. Wendy works across live performance and film as an actor, writer and visual artist. A former member of the Sydney Theatre Company’s Emerging Writers group, Wendy’s play, I am Kegu was shortlisted for last year’s Patrick White Playwrights Award and the Rodney Seaborn Playwrights Award.

Wendy has had stage plays in development programs across various theatre companies; Melbourne Theatre Company, Queensland Theatre Company, Griffin Theatre Company, Darlinghurst Theatre Company and has had her plays read at various Play Festivals in Sydney; Festival Fatale and Storytellers Festival.

Last year, Wendy was fortunate enough to be part of the creative team who worked on a TV series called I’m fine it’s fine that went on to premier at Canneseries in April last year. Wendy wrote three episodes and also acted in the TV series. The series went on to be nominated for an AACTA award for Best Digital Series or Channel.

In 2021 Wendy was fortunate enough to have her visual arts project entitled m e r i exhibited at NorthSite Contemporary Arts in Cairns and then in June 2022, it was exhibited at the Brisbane Powerhouse. Wendy is also a Writing Fellow at Queensland Theatre Company this year.

One of Wendy’s quests as a writer and artist is to make alive what is quiet and asleep in Melanesian stories and unpack the myriad of layers that is Black Pacific Islander identity.

Vivian Nguyen is Asian Australian playwright and actor. She has performed extensively with a list of impressive theatre credits across Naarm. As a writer, Vivian’s debut play, Thin Threads, was shortlisted for the Patrick White Playwrights Award and her other work, Bugged, is published as part of ATYP’s National Studio with Currency Press.

Her second play Politics Aside is supported by Theatre Works and City of Melbourne. Her third anticipated play, a moment to love debuted at Melbourne Fringe to a sold-out run and high praise. She’s an alumnus of several programs including Melbourne Theatre Company’s First Stage Program, Malthouse Theatre’s Besen Writers Group, and Theatre Works’ She Writes Collective. Her writing featured in Periscope Production’s Reigen and Theatre Works Alternative Futures.

Vivian participated in AFTRS Talent Camp with Orchid Man and is a SBS Emerging Writers Incubator Shortlist as a screenwriter. Most recently, she was shortlisted for Red Stitch’s INK Writing Program and is currently one of the recipients of The Wheeler Centre’s Hot Desk Fellowship 2023.

Named in honour of the late great Malcolm Robertson – an actor, director and former Playbox Theatre Company literary manager, who worked tirelessly throughout his career to encourage and develop Australian playwrights – the Malcolm Robertson Writers Program allows Malthouse to commission two early career playwrights each year to write a full-length play.

Past recipients have included Jada Alberts, Tom Ballard, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Peta Brady, Claire Coleman, Emilie Collyer, Zoë Coombs Marr, Nazaree Dickerson, Richard Frankland, Declan Greene, Lally Katz, Kit Lazaroo, Michele Lee, Nakkiah Lui, Janice Muller, Vidya Rajan, Osamah Sami, Carly Sheppard, Aran Thangaratnam, Louris van de Geer, and Keziah Warner.

Commissioned plays have included Stay Woke, Chase, Australian Realness, Good Muslim Boy, Going Down, Blaque Showgirls, Ugly Mugs, Walking into the Bigness, plus Alistair Baldwin’s Telethon Kid, which will premiere at the Malthouse in August 2023.

“Since 2005, the Malcolm Robertson Foundation has been proud to support 29 commissions in collaboration with Malthouse Theatre through the Malcolm Robertson Writers Program. We are very pleased to be supporting Wendy and Vivian as they bring these exciting and essential stories to life,” said Carrillo Gantner AC, Chairman, The Malcolm Robertson Foundation.

Multidisciplinary artist, Joe Paradise Lui is Malthouse’s 2023/24 Artist in Residence, participating in a program that offers a deeply engaged professional development opportunity.

“I’m thrilled that Joe Paradise Lui will be joining Malthouse Theatre as an Artist in Residence. Joe is an extraordinary talent with an imagination that crosses all areas of theatre – a true theatrical polymath,” said Malthouse Theatre Artistic Director, Matthew Lutton.

“I can’t wait to see the work and ideas Joe generates as Artist in Residence, and to support Joe’s inventive work continue its expansion across Melbourne stages.”

A founding member of Renegade Productions, Lui creates, writes, directs, designs and composes theatre and performance works.

Its most recent professional directing work was Unsung Heroes (Black Swan State Theatre Company) and most recent independent directing work was The Ugly and Salome Delta (The Blue Room Theatre). Joe is also a writer, and a sound and lighting designer.

Recent sound design credits include Bernhardt/Hamlet (Melbourne Theatre Company), Anna K (Malthouse Theatre) and Barracking for the Umpire (Black Swan State Theatre Company). Recent writing and lighting design credits include Enlightenment (Elbow Room).

As part of its residency, Lui will primarily focus on a new work, Legends of the White Snake (working title), centered around adaptations of the popular Chinese folk tale of the same name.

“[Legends of the White Snake] is an exploration of two simultaneous narratives – the folk tale, in which a Snake Demon falls in love with a human and is hunted down by a monk attempting to expose her; and the tale of the folk tale, in which the legend has evolved over time, adapting itself toward the needs of the various people who have told the story,” said Lui

“In this way, the work is a parallel story of transformation and evolution – and unpacks the idea of culture as appropriation – that stories and culture can transmute themselves in the service of the needs of people to whom the stories belong.”

“In this vein, I want to ask where my collaborators and I, with varied migrant backgrounds and differing connections to our ancestral culture, might meet White Snake, on this land in 2023.”

“In so doing, I hope to offer up a mirror to audiences, and where they might stand, or slither, alongside the stories and cultures that make up their identities,” said Lui.

Joe Paradise Lui will be joining current company in residence A Daylight Connection.

For more information about the Malthouse Theatre’s Artist programs, visit: for details.

Image: Wendy Mocke, Vivian Nguyen and Joe Paradise Lui (supplied)