Malcolm Robertson Writers Program
Image: Pia Johnson
SUPPORTED BY THE MALCOLM ROBERTSON FOUNDATION
Since 2004, the Malcolm Robertson Foundation has been a leading supporter of the development and presentation of new Australian work, playing an essential role in the sustainability of Australian contemporary theatre.
Through their visionary support, the Malcolm Robertson Writers Program allows us to commission two early career playwrights each year to write a full-length play.
One need only look to the Malcolm Robertson Prize recipients listed below to understand the incredible contribution the Foundation has made to the Australian performing arts, assisting artists to achieve their first mainstage commissions in a major performing arts company and paving the way for a new generation of theatre-makers.
You’ll have seen many of these plays on our stage—like Stay Woke, Chase, Australian Realness, Good Muslim Boy, Going Down, Blaque Showgirls, Ugly Mugs, Walking into the Bigness. And there are some fantastic new commissions in the pipeline, including Alistair Baldwin’s Telethon Kid, which has its premiere at Malthouse in August 2023.
Commissioned writers include Nazaree Dickerson, Carly Sheppard, Keziah Warner, Aran Thangaratnam, Claire Coleman, Vidya Rajan, Tom Ballard, Louris van de Geer, Kit Lazaroo, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Osamah Sami & Janice Muller, Jada Alberts, Emilie Collyer, Michele Lee, Zoë Coombs Marr, Nakkiah Lui, Peta Brady, Richard Frankland, Declan Greene, Lally Katz, Alistair Baldwin, and Adrian Chiarella.
The program is named in honour the late great Malcolm Robertson—an actor, director and former Playbox Theatre Company literary manager, who worked tirelessly throughout his career to encourage and develop Australian playwrights.
2023 MALCOLM ROBERTSON COMMISSIONS
Wendy Mocke (she/her)
Wendy Mocke is a Papua New Guinean interdisciplinary storyteller and a NIDA Acting graduate. Wendy works across live performance and film as an actor, writer and visual artist. A former member of the Sydney Theatre Company’s Emerging Writers group, Wendy’s play I am Kegu was shortlisted for last year’s Patrick White Playwrights Award and the Rodney Seaborn Playwrights Award. Wendy has had stage plays
in development programs across various theatre companies; Melbourne Theatre Company, Queensland Theatre Company, Griffin Theatre Company, Darlinghurst Theatre Company and has had her plays read at various Play Festivals in Sydney; Festival Fatale and Storytellers Festival. Last year, Wendy was fortunate enough to be part of the creative team who worked on a TV series called I’m fine it’s fine that went on to premier at Canneseries in April last year. Wendy wrote three episodes and also acted in the TV series. The series went on to be nominated for an AACTA award for Best Digital Series or Channel. In 2021 Wendy was fortunate enough to have her visual arts project entitled m e r i exhibited at NorthSite Contemporary Arts in Cairns and then in June 2022, it was exhibited at the Brisbane Powerhouse. Wendy is also a Writing Fellow at Queensland Theatre Company this year. One of Wendy’s quests as a writer and artist is to make alive what is quiet and asleep in Melanesian stories and unpack the myriad of layers that is Black Pacific Islander identity.
Kirk’s Backyard (My First Caucasian Play)
Kirk has one ambition: make gardening great again! His plan of attack? Simple: 1. Become a viral sensation on TikTok, land a TV gig, catapult to stardom. Booyah! He’s set to be the next Don Burke! So why is he out front of ALDI in disguise and surrounded by police with their guns drawn? Is it because his uncle got a black eye after being attacked by an aggressive kangaroo? Or his girlfriend dumping him for a guy who looks like Barack Obama?
Kirk’s Backyard (My First Caucasian Play) is a dark, satirical comedy about a Black disillusioned playwright desperate to get their play commissioned, and their story of a white delusional TikToker desperate to go viral. Their worlds collide in a series of events with tragic and comedic results. Bizarre and funny, but also shockingly poignant as it speaks to Australia’s perception of race and the impossible question of ‘Who has the right to tell which story?’
The stories of the Writer and Kirk will play out side by side in front of the audience’s eyes until the Writer must dive headfirst into Kirk’s shoes to finish it. This is an Aussie battler story well and truly flipped on its head.
Vivian Nguyen (she/her)
Vivian Nguyen is Asian Australian playwright and actor. She has performed extensively with a list
of impressive theatre credits across Naarm. As a writer, Vivian’s debut play Thin Threads was shortlisted for the Patrick White Playwrights Award and her other work Bugged is published as part of ATYP’s National Studio with Currency Press. Her second play Politics Aside is supported by Theatre Works and City of Melbourne. Her third anticipated play, a moment to love debuted at Melbourne Fringe to a sold-out run and high praise. She’s an alumnus of several programs including Melbourne Theatre Company’s First Stage Program, Malthouse Theatre’s Besen Writers Group, and Theatre Works’ She Writes Collective. Her writing featured in Periscope Production’s Reigen and Theatre Works Alternative Futures. Vivian participated in AFTRS Talent Camp with Orchid Man and is a SBS Emerging Writers Incubator Shortlist as a screenwriter. Most recently, she was shortlisted for Red Stitch’s INK Writing Program and is currently one of the recipients of The Wheeler Centre’s Hot Desk Fellowship 2023.
Drug trafficker Qui Tran is now a free man after five years in jail, but the past comes to haunt him when he’s reunited with his boys to confront the truth of that ill-fated night. As they catch up around a bucket of KFC, Hennessy, cocaine and cars, four men with their own scores to settle, goad each other. As they rap to Tupac’s Shorty Wanna Be a Thug, secrets, lies and betrayals around their brotherhood begin to resurface when secrets come out of tales of sexual harassment and enabled bad behaviour. Questions surrounding the night of Qui’s arrest arise, and loyalties are tested as the truth is revealed.
Inspired by true stories within her community in the Western Suburbs of Melbourne, Vivian explores the relationship between race and crime, and what brotherhood means when the truth finally comes out.