Leading dramatists share wisdom with students

Patricia Cornelius

Flinders University acting and directing students had the privilege of working alongside some of the country’s most experienced and awarded dramatists last week.

Writers Andrew Bovell (Lantana, Secret River), Christos Tsiolkas (Dead Europe, The Slap), Patricia Cornelius (Love, Do Not Go Gentle), Melissa Reeves (The Spook, Furious Mattress), actor-writer Eugenia Fragos and writer-composer Irine Vela converged on the University for a four-day workshop on their latest project.

Bereft is a multi-strand narrative drama, the third instalment in on-going collaboration that stretches back to 1996 and includes two other lauded projects: Who’s Afraid of the Working Class? (later adapted for screen as Blessed) and Fever.

The aim of the project, led by Flinders’ Professor of Creative Arts, Julian Meyrick, is to create a series of shared stage plays that reflect the issues and tensions of contemporary Australia.

Professor Meyrick said the plays “ask ‘where today’s sense of loss is located?’”, exploring the “peculiar mix of material well-being and spiritual deficit” that characterises many lives in the 21st century.

“Writing collaboratively is the acme of difficulty in the theatre and involves a level of honesty and generosity that pursuing your own singular creative vision doesn’t demand in the same way,” Professor Meyrick said.

“We have been working on Bereft since 2011, and Flinders has hosted in effect the third phase of the project, where some of the scripts are approaching near-final drafts but the overall structure of the show is still up for grabs,” he said.

“It is my strong hope that the University will be involved in later stages of the project as well.”

During the workshop, the writers worked with directing students from the Drama department, as well as students from the third and fourth-year acting streams, who read the plays and engaged in extensive discussion with the writers about their methods and intentions.

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