Weather again! This time, the hottest and most humid day of the year. But even more entrants, and an even bigger audience. Going in, we were much less nervous than before. We were buoyed by the sold-out success of The Literati, by Justin Fleming, the full play which grew out of his first act, The Savvy Women, a finalist in the 2015 Lysicrates Play Competition; by the full restoration of the Lysicrates Monument, which the Lysicrates Foundation set in motion; by the creation of the Martin-Lysicrates Prize for plays written for children; by the establishment of the Martin Oration; and by the sculpting of the statue of the young James Martin striding off to school. So much in one year.
The now traditional didgeridoo set the day in motion, and then the plays took over. The Goose in the Bottle, with its one heartbreaking line spoken by the ageing woman: “so lonely”, so brilliantly acted; The Feather in the Web, about a young woman who wants to live her life her own way; and Ghosting the Party, an old woman facing confinement in a nursing home, and death. All of the plays showed a very Australian, very clever, ability to straddle the line between tragedy and laughter, and indeed this shading from one to the other has actually been a hallmark of many of the Lysicrates plays. The acting was beyond extraordinary. We’re blown away by the talent of Australian actors.
So 2017 turned out to be the year of the women, young, ageing and old, and whether their stories were told by male or female authors mattered not at all.
When the time came for the enchanted procession, the air had cooled, the birds were out, and the clouds were pink. And this time, a special treat: The Ballad of Lysicrates, composed, and sung, by Mrs Linda Hurley, the wife of the Governor of New South Wales, David Hurley. Smiles all round, more dancing, and the traditional joyous atmosphere. A very happy day.
2017 Winner: Melissa Bubnic
The 2017 Finalists
The Goose in the Bottle
Playwright: Jennifer Compton
A poignant, funny exploration of the hollowness behind a façade of wealth and popularity, a façade where art is a backdrop and which does not hide the loneliness of the house’s occupant. Written for four female actors, in deliberate counterpoint to Jennifer Compton’s reading of Pinter’s No Man’s Land, with its four male actors, The Goose in the Bottle harks back to the old story of the woman who raised a goose in a bottle. When the goose was fully grown, how could she free it without harming it or the bottle? How can we be fulfilled without paying a price?
Feather in the Web
Playwright: Nick Coyle
A story about a girl who does what she wants, when she wants, and how she wants, who doesn’t accept the training she was born into. She destroys, but faces destruction herself when she falls in love, for as she tries to have her love requited, she loses much of what she essentially is. Blown about, light and beautiful as a feather, the girl becomes trapped, by love, in the web of conventional expectations.
Hilarious, shocking, lively, full of incident, poignant, this play has given us the front page of the Lysicrates website. A wonderful example of that Australian navigation of the narrow ridge separating tragedy from laughter.
Ghosting the Party
Playwright: Melissa Bubnic
Again, laugh out loud black humour, as three women face the mortality of the oldest one. Tart, sardonic and funny, the oldest woman has some of the best lines, and the audience loved them. The idea for the play was born as the author visited her grandparents, who lived to a great age, and came across a previously independent woman of 99 who was now totally reliant on strangers for the most basic bodily services. It deals with the uncomfortable fact that we are living longer, but not necessarily living well, as our bodies let us down.
The title of the play is about wanting to leave the party, to leave life, when it suits you, and nobody else, because the alternative is simply too frightening. An audience favourite, harrowing, horrifying, and uproarious.