Playwright Andrew Bovell is Sydney Theatre Company’s new Patrick White Fellow, following on from writers including Tommy Murphy, Kate Mulvany, Angela Betzien, Hilary Bell, Patricia Cornelius and Raimondo Cortese.
Bovell is probably best known for his multi-award winning stage adaptation of Kate Grenville’s The Secret River, as well as his play Speaking in Tongues, which was adapted into the 2001 film Lantana. He also co-wrote the original screenplay for Strictly Ballroom and plays such as When the Rain Stops Falling and After Dinner.
The $25,000 fellowship goes to an established playwright each year in recognition of their body of work, and includes a commission from the company to be developed over the course of the year. The Fellow also collaborates extensively with other artists working at STC.
Bovell’s Fellowship was announced tonight, alongside the winner of the 2016 Patrick White Playwrights’ Award. Lewis Treston’s play Hot Tub was the standout of the 106 anonymously-submitted plays, winning the $7500 prize.
The winning play is set in Surfers Paradise and “follows the fading fortunes of the Whites, a dysfunctional family who own and live in a 20 storey high-rise. When estranged daughter, Dido, comes to live with the family she finds herself drawn into a chaotic world of money-making scams and enterprises. She discovers a surprising solution to her body image issues but also finds herself embroiled in the sex industry, organised crime and the opportunistic underbelly of Australia’s playground.”
This year, the Patrick White Fellow will also work with and mentor STC’s first participants in the Emerging Writers’ Group. The writers are Emme Hoy, Julian Larnach, Moreblessing Maturure and Disapol Savetsila, whose play Australian Grafiti premieres at STC later this year.
The Emerging Writers’ Group is a new initiative from the company, and provides four new Australian playwrights with professional development. They will work with Artistic Director Kip Williams, Literary Manager Polly Rowe and other STC artists and staff. In addition to participating in workshops, the writers will have the opportunity to pitch for STC programming consideration.
In a statement, Bovell said: “Where the novelist and the poet can exist alone and in isolation, the playwright seeks to work in collaboration with other theatre artists; actors, directors, designers and composers. Great theatre comes out of the relationship between these disciplines and it’s our theatre companies that bring these disciplines together. As a playwright I want to be as much a part of the companies that produce my work as possible. I want to belong. I want to collaborate. The Patrick White Fellowship offers me the opportunity to be a part of STC and its creative team under Kip Williams’ artistic directorship. As part of the Fellowship I look forward to mentoring and working with the STC’s newly announced Emerging Writers’ Group. It’s an important initiative and one that acknowledges the company’s commitment to developing the writers of the next generation.”