Wow! What a fantastic event! Despite competition that afternoon round the Opera House from the huge Greek march, the nude bicycle ride and the girls’ school concert, we had a virtually full house. A diverse, totally engaged and amazingly responsive crowd.
The Griffin Theatre staff and the volunteers in their dashing red and white Lysicrates T-shirts had things running like clockwork, putting one of the gorgeous programs on each seat, handing out the voting tokens, and generally being smiling and welcoming in the foyer. The lights went down and the chattering stopped. Onto the dark stage stepped a spotlighted figure holding a didgeridoo. It was Brock Tutt, who has started off every Lysicrates Competition bar one with the haunting bass booms and breaths of his instrument, to remind us that the land where we were sitting was a place of ritual for tens of thousands of years.
Then two short addresses, one by John Azarias summing up five years of the ever-growing Lysicrates project, the other by Lee Lewis introducing the Lysicrates concept of audience voting, the audience laughing and applauding warmly, and we were away.
The first play, Appropriate, by Katy Warner, dealt with the highly topical subject of harassment; the second, Leviathan, with the difference between legal and moral responsibility; and the third, Tell Me You Love Me, with the ways a daughter deals with a parent with Alzheimer’s. All of them brilliantly crafted, all of them exhibiting that very Australian characteristic of mixing comedy and tragedy, all of them inviting speculation on what happens next.
The same amazing actors were in all the three plays.
Clutching their voting tokens, an echo of the pottery shards used by the voters of the ancient Greek drama festivals, the audience filed past the urns and literally cast their votes under the eye of the KPMG scrutineer.
Now the delightful stroll across to the Lysicrates Monument in the Botanic Gardens. And as the audience approached the monument, a bouzouki could be heard in the distance, reminding people of the origins of this event 2, 500 years ago in Athens. Around the base of the monument, the RBG had placed new plaques detailing its history.
A lectern was waiting, and the tension rose. Arguments broke out about the relative merits of the plays. (Just what we intended!). Little dots of rain were making themselves felt when Governor Hurley stepped behind the microphone and took the envelope from the hands of the scrutineer.
All three playwrights were in the audience. Governor Hurley opened the envelope. Jane Bodie and Tell Me You Love Me! Congratulations, Jane! At the microphone, Jane gave way to emotion, telling us that she had just arrived from London the night before, and that her play had been written from devastating personal experience of caring for her mother. There were tears and murmurs of sympathy.
To great applause, Mrs Hurley then sang the charming Lysicrates anthem, which she had written and composed herself. I then gave the vote of thanks, and it was time to stroll up to the Botanic Gardens restaurant for a party.
They were still at it when John and I left, exhausted but elated, and thinking to ourselves, Wow! What a fantastic event!
A lovely article was published in The Australian the following morning, which you can read here.
Words by: Patricia Azarias
2019 Winner: Jane Bodie
The 2019 Finalists
Playwright: Katy Warner
The first play was Appropriate by Katy Warner. A brilliantly paced depiction of the treatment meted out by defensive, deceptive, unnamed bureaucrats to a young woman declaring she had been harassed by a powerful man at the top of the hierarchy. Not just topical, but wonderfully crafted, this play built up to a shattering final scene, which still left a question: what will she do now?
Playwright: Julian Larnach
The second play was Leviathan, by Julian Larnach. A slow-burning fuse of a play, deftly releasing its secret by degrees through the complexities of family dynamics, Leviathan too deals with a topical subject, highlighting the difference between legal and moral responsibility. Also open-ended, it invites speculation on what the young man at the centre of the action would now do.
Tell Me You Love Me
Playwright: Jane Bodie
The third play, Tell Me You Love Me, by Jane Bodie, also deals with complexities, this time through a double story linked by the person of the daughter. Crafted with great skill and compassion, Tell Me You Love Me, written from devastating personal experience, tackles the way that children faced with a parent with Alzheimer’s deal with the unbearable. This was the play that resonated the most with the audience.