Writers obviously were scribbling madly during the months of lockdown. With over 50 plays submitted for the chance to share in a total prize pool of $7000 courtesy of The Buzz From Sydney, New Theatre has announced the six plays shortlisted for The Silver Gull Play Award 2021.
The judging panel read, assessed and discussed each submission multiple times. The identity of the writers was kept anonymous from the judges, so the shortlist truly reflects a determination made on merit, solely on the quality of writing. After a month of deliberation, a shortlist of six has been finalised.
The shortlisted plays are of a very high standard, responding with imagination, intelligence and insight to the brief for plays that speak to New Theatre’s ethos of Plays With a Purpose, engaging with contemporary society and the challenges that we face, and demonstrating the strength and diversity of playwriting in this country.
The writers comprise a poet and novelist who has been shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, two graduates of the NIDA Playwrights’ Studio, a true-crime afficionado, an Awgie-nominated writer and director, and an aspiring steam-train driver!
The Silver Gull Play Award 2021 Shortlisted Plays are:
Off The Record by Chris Aronsten
Sanctuary by Margaret Davis
Cloudsurfing by John AD Fraser
The Scammer by Wendy Lewis
Fitson and Dan by Mark O’Flynn
The Other End of The Afternoon by Bokkie Robertson
The judges also ‘Highly Commended’ two plays: Identity Games by Christopher Bryant, and Television by James O’Loghlin
The judges are: Annie Bilton (former Literary Manager, Griffin Theatre Co; Play Assessor, New Theatre), Louise Fischer (Artistic Director, New Theatre), Patrick Howard (freelance theatre-maker; Play Assessor, New Theatre), Victor Kalka (freelance director and designer), John Keightley (actor; Play Assessor, New Theatre), Sahn Millington (director; Play Assessor, New Theatre), Shan-Ree Tan (actor), Helen Tonkin (Artistic Associate, New Theatre), and Tiffany Wong (actor, director, producer).
Chris Aronsten is a graduate of the AFTRS (BA, Screenwriting) and the NIDA Playwrights’ Studio. His short film, Call Waiting, won the Best Screenplay Award at the 1998 British Short Film Festival. His television credits include Going Home (SBS), David Tench Tonight (Ten) and Comedy Inc. – The Late Shift (Nine). Between 2005 and 2007 Chris wrote a satirical advice column for the Sydney Morning Herald. In 2005, he was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to research writers’ theatres in the UK, Ireland and the USA.
Plays include Human Resources (Darlinghurst Theatre 2006), Malice Toward None (Old Fitzroy Theatre, 2012) and The Lunch Hour (Darlinghurst Theatre, 2012) In 2013, Chris was awarded Inscription’s Edward Albee Playwriting Scholarship. In 2017, Chris toured his monologue What would Cathy do? to three international festivals: The One Festival (New York), The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and United Solo (New York). In 2018, Chris received development funding from Scripted Ink for his drama series The Recogniser. He is currently developing several theatre, film and television projects.
Margaret Davis is a playwright and theatre director living on Darug and Gundunurra land in the Blue Mountains. Her produced plays include The Girl Who Wanted to be God, Wolf Moon, Isis Dreaming, and The Woman on the Twenty Dollar Note (nominated for an Awgie award.) Margaret founded her own company Two Planks and a Passion which explored the boundaries between text-based and physical theatre. Among their productions were Margaret’s adaptation of the gothic horror novel, The Monk, and her original works, Spilling Bodies and Women Through the Windows (commissioned by Hyde Park Barracks.)
Her play Mad Before Midday was part of the New Directions Season at New Theatre in 2002 and Forging Ahead was written on commission for the New the following year. Her play Unspeakable Acts was completed during her period as an ANPC Dramatist. In 2015 Margaret wrote When His Hand Brushed Mine for the subtlenuance portmanteau work And Now to Bed. This experience inspired two works Margaret has since directed and co-written with writers and actors in the Blue Mountains region: Breaking Bread, which focused on food and memory, and Eating Pomegranates, which celebrated bodies through all stages of life and death. Both enjoyed sell-out seasons.
In 2019 she was Director/Writer of the Originate project at Q Theatre, Push Me Away Pull Me Closer. During the 2020 COVID crisis Margaret wrote The Angel Code for Q Theatre’s Short Message Service and wrote and performed an autobiographical piece Balancing on the Edge for Come to Where I Am (a joint initiative of Critical Stages Australia and Paines Plough U.K.) She also received development funding for a third Blue Mountains work: Lookout/Look Out!
John AD Fraser is a graduate of the NIDA Playwrights’ Studio and has has won several awards, and completed international residencies including at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh and the Finborough Theatre in London. He has over 20 performed short and full-length plays in Australia, the UK and North America. In 2019, Catch a Falling Knife won best script at InspiraTo, Canada’s largest short play festival. His full-length play All the Rage was published by Playlab. Rock, Paper, Scissors was featured at the first Australian National Play Festival and performed at the Old Fitz.
Wendy Lewis is a Sydney writer with a passion for true crime, history and biography. She writes for stage and musical theatre, notably the murder-mystery-with-a-twist The Devil’s Caress (Factory Space, 2019) and the dark musical Defeating Roger Federer (independently produced at New Theatre, 2020). She has written 12 books, her most recent being Please forgive us, Richard Hauptmann (2020). For more information: wendylewiswriter.com
Mark O’Flynn was born in Melbourne, and now lives in the Blue Mountains. He began writing for the theatre before turning to fiction and poetry. He has published six collections of poetry, most recently Shared Breath, (2017). His novels include Grassdogs (Harper Collins, 2006) and The Forgotten World (Harper Collins, 2013). In 2013 he also published the comic memoir, False Start, (Finch), and a collection of short stories White Light, (Spineless Wonders). His novel The Last Days of Ava Langdon was shortlisted for both the Miles Franklin Literary Award as well as the Prime Minister’s Literary Award. His latest book is a collection of short stories Dental Tourism, (2020). He is a founding member of Weatherboard Theatre Company and continues to have an interest in writing for the stage.
Bokkie Robertson is a writer, director and aspiring steam train driver living and working on unceded Gadigal land. She graduated from the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts (Screen Production), and has worked on three feature films since – June Again, Ellie and Abbie and Ellie’s Dead Aunt and Long Story Short. Her body of work includes Shakespeare-inspired webseries Call Me Katie and its sequel Nothing Like The Sun, Short+Sweet 2015 Gala Finalist Wish, short film Out Loud, and one-act play Headbanging to Beethoven. She is a member of ATYP’s 2021 National Studio, and is currently directing a production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. The Other End of the Afternoon is her first full-length play. When not writing or directing, she can be found on Locomotive 5917, shovelling coal and thinking about how cool she probably looks to passers-by.
New Theatre will present rehearsed readings of excerpts of the six plays at the awards night on Tuesday 7 December, when the winner will be announced. For more information, visit: For more information, visit: www.newtheatre.org.au for details.
Image: Silver Gull – artwork by © Michael Tonkin