The 2012 R E Ross Trust Playwrights' Script Development Award winners. From left: Monica Raszewski, Jodi Gallagher, Angus Cerini, Margaret Cameron, Ian M Vaughan (trustee, The R E Ross Trust) and MP Heidi Victoria
The 2012 winners of The R E Ross Trust Playwrights' Script Development Awards are Angus Cerini, Margaret Cameron, Jodi Gallagher and Monica Raszewski.
Judges: Campion Decent, Mary Lou Jelbart, Maryanne Lynch
The judges read a total of 20 plays of which seven plays were considered on the 2012 shortlist, which is a testament to the overall quality (rather than quantity) within the field. The four winning scripts are ambitious and potently theatrical works. Each demonstrates a sophisticated engagement with the language of the theatre and what it can do, yet they are as different from each other as they could possibly be. Their influences draw from a vast world, from Australian modernist art through Jewish identity to French philosophy, from a desire to deal with the unfinished business of reconciliation in Australia to the aftermath of catastrophe in Palestine, Haiti and America. Each writer is also proposing to work with a team (in various combination of director, dramaturg, sound artist, movement director and actor) that prominently underlines the values of process and collaboration in the creative genesis of a script.
The judges did note that there was a significant decrease in the number in applications from last year. This decrease was of concern to them and they recommend that the organisers monitor the situation in the year ahead to ascertain the possible factors contributing to this decrease, and, more importantly, if it reflects a change in the development needs of the independent theatre sector in Victoria.
Opera for a small mammal, by Margaret Cameron, explores the artist’s position in society from a rigorous and singular point of view, combining a potent mix of scholarly, philosophical and literary influences to create a resonant landscape of performance. Here she continues an established exploration of how things 'fit' together (or rather not) across the realms of performance, theory and history, and, importantly, within a corporeal experience.
Scowl, by Angus Cerini, thrillingly pushes the boundaries of language to create two memorable 'old birds' – bedridden, incontinent, destitute and beyond caring about what they say – in a low-level care facility. In this work Cerini takes Beckett’s Winnie from Happy days and shoves her down under by six degrees as sisters Annie and Jean battle out the nothings in a bitter pursuit to settle domestic scores, only to be silenced by the mysterious presence of an even more mysterious stranger.
Prophet (working title), by Jodi Gallagher, offers an audacious and timely examination of identity, crisis and religion. A play about a false messiah is a huge topic and the writer moves her way through it by mapping a series of vivid encounters rather than striving for any sense of neat destination. Ranging across history and regions, a richly imagined palette of influences shows a writer pushing into new postdramatic territory with potentially gripping results.
There are trees that are dancers, by Monica Raszewski, is ostensibly about little-known Australian artist Sybil Craig and a real-life encounter with Barbara Blackman. Yet the twists, the turns, the excruciating deceits and the exhilarating evasions of a re-enacted interview give this piece a poignant honesty as well as a beguiling sense of how we see what we want, or miss it altogether. It creates an enigmatic portrait and, at the same time, offers a lesson in economy in bringing biographical material vividly to life.
About the winners
Margaret Cameron is Resident Director at Chamber Made Opera, and a performance artist and writer with more than 30 years experience.
Margaret received the Australia Council Theatre Fellowship in 2004. She was short-listed for the Kit Denton Fellowship in 2007 and the Victorian Premiers Literary Awards for Knowledge and melancholy in 1997.
Angus Cerini is a writer, performer and director with a background in dance. He is the recipient of the Patrick White Playwrights' Award; was recently shortlisted for the Griffin Play Award; and his script and production of Save for crying received a Green Room Award for Best New Writing and Best Independent Production.
Angus Cerini has been invited to participate in Playwriting Australia's 2013 program to further develop Scowl.
Jodi Gallagher is a writer, director and dramaturge whose plays include Elegy and Victory girls. Her libretto, Remembering Rosie, was commissioned by OzOpera in 2001.
Jodi holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne and recently directed Clare Bowditch in Eva: Tales from the life of Eva Cassidy.
Monica Raszewski is a playwright, fiction writer and librarian whose plays include Three oaks and whose short stories have been published in Overland and Meanjin.
Monica is a previous recipient of a R E Ross Trust Playwrights' Script Development Award for her play Egg shell, in 2006. In 2010 Monica was awarded a Creative Fellowship to write the first draft of a play inspired by Modernist artist, Sybil Craig.