2015 had been the year of the big gamble, and it had paid off. A different kind of gamble in 2016 – the weather. The clouds were heavy that day, and the sun sporadic. What about the enchanted outdoor procession from the Conservatorium, through the Botanic Gardens, down to the Lysicrates Monument? Cancel, or risk it? We risked it.
Inside the Conservatorium, the audience was bigger. There had been more entrants. And after last year, the anticipation was fizzing even more. The first play,Saint Theo, aimed high, a tough high-wire act between tragedy and farce. Like last year, the actors were performing script in hand after only three days of rehearsal, and they were astonishingly good.
For the second play,Approximate Balance, there was a great change of gear. An innovative setting, a family convulsion, a gradual discovery – it brought tears to many eyes, and was greeted with one of theatre’s most precious raves – half a minute’s silence at the end.
The third play,The Good Wolf, another clever bringing together of tears and laughter, with the Holocaust as background.
How lucky we were in the quality of this writing! Australia is marvellously rich in writing talent.
In the end, it didn’t rain. The enchanted procession happened. They danced, they ate, they argued. Just what we wanted. When the winner, Mary Rachel Brown, the author of Approximate Balance, was announced, she endeared herself to everyone by bursting into tears.
The magic had struck again.
2016 Winner: Mary Rachel Brown