May 2023 Newsletter

May 31st, 2023

Lysicrates 7 - a brilliant success this year

Premier Minns renews support for Martin Children's Walk

As the audience streamed in to the Conservatorium foyer, a buzz of anticipation built and carried through into the auditorium. Soon the hall was packed. The atmosphere was warm, friendly, alert.

All at once, the lights went out. In the darkness, a spotlight picked out the renowned didgeridoo player, Russell Dawson, walking on to the stage. A few minutes of a haunting, virtuoso performance – and the seventh Lysicrates Play Competition was underway!

The Chair of the Lysicrates Foundation, John Azarias, welcomed the audience, and the Premier, Chris Minns, gave a rousing speech noting that he and his wife Anna had attended the very first Lysicrates Competition and were old hands, and reiterating his support for the Martin Children’s Walk from Parramatta to Sydney.

Con Costi, famous as one of Australia’s most brilliant young opera directors, was the Master of Ceremonies and introduced the proceedings in his trademark resonant voice.

The three first acts about to be performed were the survivors of a filter of the 72 entries, the biggest ever Lysicrates field. The three were very different – one, a moving tribute to a father, an innocent casualty of an industrial process (ILLUMINATION by Joanna Erskine); another, a vigorous, tense evocation of political turbulence in the Philippines (MALACANANG/MONTGOMERY by Jordan Shea); and the third, an object lesson in black humour, set in a pub in outback Australia (MURDER, MURDER, HAIR! A TRAGEDY by Suvi Derkenne).

The mood in the audience was electric. Each person knew that each vote counted – because the winner of the competition was chosen following the ancient Greek model, where it was not an emperor, or a dignitary, or a favourite, who chose the victor, but the audience itself in a democratic vote. The audience was on high alert.

Three days at most of rehearsal, few props or special costumes, just the raw unvarnished words of the playwright, read from a script. No frills. So – a tough challenge for the actors and the directors to make it all real and involving. It’s not an exaggeration to say they succeeded wonderfully. The three plays were warmly applauded.

Now for the crunch, the vote. People filed out to vote, arguing with each other. There were passion and even a few shouts. Three urns were waiting in the foyer, and each person literally cast their vote – a voting token – into one of the urns representing the play of their choice.

Back in the auditorium, there was tension in the air. The winner was to be announced by Tony Burke, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, and Leader of the House. He made a remarkable speech, pointing out that Lysicrates covered all five of the pillars of his new Arts strategy, Revive: Australia’s New National Cultural Policy. For the Lysicrates Foundation, hearing that from the father of that Policy was very satisfying.

The Minister opened the envelope. Hearts were beating. And the winner? Murder, Murder, Hair! A Tragedy By Suvi Derkenne!

The vote was close. There were plenty of supporters for the other plays, which both evidenced skill and deep feeling. In the end, it seemed that the quirky, singular black humour of the winning play prevailed with the audience that afternoon.

Everyone now stepped down to the reception area below to disagree, cross swords, laugh, drink and eat. Hours later, the place was finally empty.

A wonderful time had been had by all, three young Australian playwrights had had their work showcased, actors and directors had demonstrated their talent to a live audience, new people had been attracted to experience the magic of live theatre. All on a site where, for thousands of years, the young men of the Gadigal people had also performed, dancing the Dog Dance and the Kangaroo Dance before going to hunt the thylacine and the kangaroo.

Today’s was a brilliant event, all put together by the extraordinary Artistic Director of Lysicrates, Hayden Tonazzi.

That faint sound still hanging in the air was Mr Lysicrates, cheering in his 2500-year-old grave.

Premier Minns renews support for Martin Children's Walk

The Seventh Lysicrates Play Competition was attended by a number of senior political figures, both Federal and State. Among them were Chris Minns, Premier of NSW, Mark Speakman, Leader of the Opposition in NSW, and the former NSW Premier, Dominic Perrottet.

In his speech, Premier Minns reiterated the enthusiastic support for the Martin Children’s Walk that he had expressed in December 2022, when he endorsed the announcement of former Premier Perrottet that the Martin Walk would be organized. Mr Perrottet’s announcement was set out in our Press Release dated 8 October 2022 (attached). Mr Minns and Mr Perrottet also expressed their intention of participating in the Walk themselves.

Mr Speakman also reiterated his endorsement of the Children’s Walk, saying that he was delighted at the prospect of participating himself.

The Member for Parramatta, Donna Davis MLA, was also enthusiastic about the Walk, saying that she was delighted that a child of Parramatta, namely the Premier from Parramatta, was being honoured and remembered in the event.

The Lysicrates Foundation is working closely with the NSW Department of Education to make the Martin Children’s Walk happen.

Irish-born James Martin (1820-1886) was the son of John Martin, a servant at Parramatta Government House. He attended a Parramatta primary school run by an ex-convict. As there were no high schools in Parramatta, his father John tried to find a job 20kms away in Sydney so that his son James could continue his education. But John failed. It looked as though his brilliant 12-year-old son would have to become a servant like his father.

At this point the boy James made a decision that changed his life forever. He told his parents that he would walk to Sydney. They said – what about bushrangers? He asked them what bushrangers would want with books on mathematics and ancient Greek.

So for two years, until his father did manage to get a job in Sydney, the boy walked from home in Parramatta to high school in Sydney. Sometimes he stayed overnight, sometimes he hitched rides, but often he would set out in the dark, walking to school.

That boy became Premier of NSW three times, Attorney-General and Chief Justice. His friend Henry Parkes named the grand boulevard at the centre of Sydney Martin Place, after that brave and resolute 12-year-old boy.

That determination, that love of learning, that ambition, are an inspiration to any kid who starts life with no advantages. And giving kids that inspiration is the vision behind the Martin Children’s Walk.

It will start in Parramatta Square, at the statue of the 12-year-old boy striding off to school, and end in Martin Place, at the twin of the Parramatta statue. And it will be done in relays. In Martin Place, there will be festivities, which are currently being planned.

Stay tuned for more Martin Children’s Walk developments as they happen!