WRAP: Kicking Down Doors

09/10/2010 at 1:46 pm Leave a comment

Congratulations to the selectees for the Kicking Down Doors initiative at Playwriting Australia. Almost as if reading scenes from eighty five plays in one day was not unusual, all in a day’s work, right? But it’s theatre, we don’t make complications where they aren’t necessary, even an emergency evacuation broadcast test wasn’t about to get in the way of a full day’s testing the waters of new Australian writing. Mentorships have been offered to Tahli Corin, Laura Hopkinson, Rick Viede, Anna Houston, Kit Brookman and Tresa Ponnor. The plays (respectively) are The Memory Muse, Bubble Belly, The Hoax, Vanessa Darling, Heaven and Mira’s Neighbours.

The eight hours of play excerpts went by with an ease and something approaching familiarity. And, yes, it all slid by like something totally natural, which testifies to the professionalism of the actors, directors and people behind it all – but it was also a little disconcerting something seeming so uncomplicated should come about as a result of one of the most bizarre and controversial turns of literary event of the year. That something should be so simple to set up but somehow has never been done to this degree. New writing, read aloud in bite size snatches, for a live audience of industry peers, on a mass scale.

There were a few things going on here. First and foremost, I’m sure it was a hugely exciting day for many emerging writers. I know it’s been a long time coming for my script to be read out, and that it would be done by professionals in Carriageworks Bay 20 was amazing. Not only is it something exhilarating hearing your work read in front of a decent size audience, but to hear it read well, to hear it make sense, and to hear even the faintest of chuckles at your gags is vindication for anyone who’s gone through the isolated writing process. Knowing that the crowd was made up primarily of industry peers makes a difference, and when some of those peers are the Artistic Directors and Literary Managers for some of the more influential theatre companies in town – well that’s the icing on the cake. at its core, simply having work out in the open like that is incredibly powerful.

I can’t imagine how the judges might begin to separate some of these works, although, audience were asked to rate a people’s choice award throughout the day. This proved an interesting process, one is quickly forced to stratify in their mind what makes a scene worthy or ‘good’ before quickly moving onto the next one. This is difficult enough and it’s a teensy insight into the world of the Artistic Director or Literary Awards Panel Judge who must go into enormous detail when making their decisions. I did mention that this initiative is what came from the infamous $30,000 prize that went unawarded earlier in the year? The prize that so many writers got a bee in their collective bonnet about and even managed to organise a petition? Do we all remember that?

In case we’ve forgotten, there was a bit of uproar when the NSW Premier’s Literary Award did not get given to a playwright, the money instead going to Playwriting Australia so they can use it to encourage new writing in the state. Why does it take such controversy to generate this powerful event? Seems strange. Irrespective of the events of May 2010, thirty thousand roos are but a few drops in the collective funding trough, as it were. There are a hundred and ten writers submitting in New South Wales alone (lest we forget Playwriting Australia is a national organisation), and given that theatre tends to be done on a state by state basis it follows that similar events might occur nationwide on a recurring basis. You can’t even begin to describe the range of works coming through on just one day, the mind boggles at how simple it would be to do this six or seven times a year. Imagining the scope of new work that would emerge is actually quite difficult.

Anyhow in the coming weeks I will be publishing further excerpts of the scene read on the day from the current project. Leaving the title off for the moment… See if you can guess! Here is the first snippet:

Cast of Characters
PAN The Greek Demigod, youthful in vigor but wizened to an indeterminate age. He wears a beaten up ANZAC uniform to disguise his goat legs and horns.
KATIE The infamous gang leader Kate Leigh; age 48.
FRANK Katie’s right hand man.
GUIDO A mid-level enforcer for Katie’s gang.
CAPTAIN JONES A police officer. For comic effect the same actor should play the roles of both JONES and GUIDO.
KAY a young woman.
LIONEL The bartender.
SHARON one of the chorus.
KEN The poet and journalist Kenneth Slessor.
DULCIE the poet Dulcie Deamer “Queen of Bohemia”.
RANDOLPH a rotund North American cocaine dealer.
CHORUS made up of the women who work upstairs.

I, i
[An East Sydney brothel circa 1929. There is a bar at one end with a door leading into a kitchen area, a stairwell leading up to another level, and the main entrance which rings a set of bells whenever someone is about to come through. A few tables are set here and there, and a counter in one corner holds a pot of stew with a chalkboard upon which is written “Pot Luck”. Against a wall is a chez-lounge, typifying the style of the room which is luxurious yet dirty. PAN sits alone at the bar sipping his drink quietly. He suddenly notices the audience is there and raises his glass in acknowledgement.]

PAN: Ah! you’re here early. Good. It’s my shout. Here – for your eyes – I reveal my disguise – Eh? You’re looking at me strange. Is it the horns? Most people don’t pay me any mind. Not in this place. Get all kith and kin, every one of us seeking refuge from something in this darkened hole of hideaways. Even you. Ha- that old joke applies to me as well. Why’d they send him to Sydney then, eh? Sinned – didn’he! Aahhhehehehehe. Watch it. These days we needs all the laughs we can get. It’s a funny place this city. There’s no history yet for which to repeat. (And yet – I must confide – I have seen what happens next). An ancient place. But the city lies anew. [The clock strikes six] Ah! My favourite time of day. The women are coming! [a CHORUS of women come down the stairway]

CHORUS Our night is nigh upon you, when the clock strikes six, our tricks become your fancy, mixing poison with your pleasure. Dressed in white, our cotton sheets on linen beds. We’ll fill your heads with flights of dancing, softer still, the skin you will yet start to crave anew – Oh do behave!

PAN There’s only one thing I can do perchance to quell the bubbling brook you’re slaving to concoct inside my pants! Some antidote or tonic? Yet I do regret; too much will just fuel the ken. eh? No these ladies are not witches, not conniving – I have seen them striving to impress – and yes, they will, and yes, they do such things to mind and body that one might think of supernatural things. I will kindly now refrain from toying with their sultry games – it’s only fair. Their thoughts will stray to me instead! This business that is mine, will stay mostly on my mind. Here comes one now…

CHORUS little one, stay among our safety. In numbers you remain unseen.

KAY I’m dizzy to be noticed, to be loved.

CHORUS in our protection find the choral pleasure else you seek to be found wanting.


KATIE Tie it, you lot. Back upstairs and ready for the punters… Move it. You. New Girl. Sit tight. I want a word. Now, Sergeant –

JONES Captain –

KATIE Right. You were saying?

JONES The city will look high and low for the killer. If any of your people have something –

KATIE Bite your tongue.

JONES An officer has been murdered. You would be well advised to stay abreast of these developments as they happen to be in your neighbourhood.

KATIE Nothing happens around here without my knowing.

JONES in that case consider this fair warning of my impending investigation.

KATIE I’ll keep my ears open.

JONES To keep the peace.

KATIE Right.

JONES I think I’d best make my evening rounds.

KATIE You sure I can’t offer you something from ours? On the house.

JONES You’ve done more than enough already. Good evening to you.

KATIE Oh Captain?


KATIE You’re undone.

JONES [checks his fly] Quite – [exit]

KATIE Fucking pig bastard. And you – all that’s mum. Lock it up or I’ll skin ya’. Got it?

KAY Yes’m

KATIE good – what’s your name then?

KAY Kay.

KATIE Kay. OK. The rules are simple. Do as I say. Stay pretty. Stay indoors. Stay clean and white like the driven snow. We’ll look after you. Clear?

KAY alright.

[enter LIONEL wearing his filthy work gear, as he talks he changes his shirt KAY cannot help but look]

KATIE You’re late.

Entry filed under: Act I scene i, New Work, Sydney THEATRE. Tags: , , , .


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VICTOR SANCZ vassanc [AT] gmail.com

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