Maxine Mellor Wins 2023 Rodney Seaborn Playwrights Award

Maxine Mellor Wins 2023 Rodney Seaborn Playwrights Award

At a function held at the Seaborn Broughton and Walford Foundation (SBW) Christmas Party on November 23, Diana Simmonds, Chair of Trustees, announced that Brisbane playwright, MAXINE MELLOR had won the 2023 Rodney Seaborn Playwrights Award for her play O’Mighty Make-Believe.  It was the unanimous choice of the Trustees after a blind reading of the 2023 entries.

The $20,000 award, for the development of a play or other approved performing arts project, attracted close to 50 submissions from across Australia.
The runners-up this year are James Elazzi for his play “Concrete” and (a previous SBW winner) Dylan Van Den Bergfor his play “The Flood”.

Maxine was unable to be present at the Awards as she is at home in Brisbane with her five-week-old baby.  On hearing the news of her win Maxine said, “Thank you so much for this amazing honour – I am absolutely thrilled to bits! I wish I could be there in person to celebrate, but I welcomed a little baby boy into the world only weeks ago, so life is currently a blur dictated almost exclusively by his stomach and sleep. 

“I would like to thank the Seaborn, Broughton and Walford Foundation, Ms Carol Martin, and the trustees and judges of the award for providing this precious opportunity. Congratulations, also, to the runners up – I hear I am in very good company, and I look forward to seeing your works on stage one day soon!

“I love that this award seeks to highlight positive values – it encourages us playwrights to look for the light when the world can seem very dark. Years ago, while developing a rather bleak and oh-so-serious play of mine in tiny room above the wharfs in Walsh Bay, the esteemed Maggie Blinco bluntly asked, ‘where’s the joy?!’ Boy did that cut through! With three words she made me realise what was missing in that work, what had drawn me to writing and theatre, and what I needed to hold onto as a playwright. Joy! How could I forget?! It is my middle name after all! The promise of joy is what makes the bad bits sufferable. Why would I withhold it from my audience? 

O’Mighty Make-Believe was a return to joy for me, the joy of writing, the joy of performance, the joy of make-believe. While this play may have its darkness, what I hope shines through is the joy of creation; that with nothing more than body, voice, and a little light, artist and audience can create a whole world together. All you must do is believe. 

“It is with this revelation close to heart that I’ll continue to develop the play with thanks to the generous support of this award. I can’t wait! I will be thinking of you all from balmy Brisbane tonight, and insist you have a glass of something on my behalf! Thank you, once again, and enjoy!”

Terence Clarke AM – composer, director, actor and dramaturg – commented after reading the award-winning play “An exercise in make-believe by two performers’ of deliberately unspecified age and gender, though Two - addressed as ‘Doris’ and, for a time, as Vanessa - is certainly the more submissive to One’s more dominant - Estragon to Vladimir? I began by seriously underestimating this but carried on. In calling it – rather, in asking us to consider it as - ‘an extended improvisation ‘, I think the author is not judging it so much as suggesting to director and actors a way into it. 

“It seems, in its arbitrary sequencing, to have the structure of a surreal dream. A long Grimm-fairy story with violence, terrorism (contemporary pirates), cruelty, sadism (reference to the Belanglo murders, and to pedophilia), pain, darkness, separation. 

“At the same time, it never loses its humorous tone: I laughed out loud more than once. I’m going out on a limb here, but I think it’s brilliant. We shall hear more of her.”

Maxine Mellor is an award-winning playwright and teaching artist, drawn to Magical Realism and black comedy. She won the David Williamson Award for Playwriting [2022] and the AWGIE Award for Best Original Play [2022], the Lord Mayor’s Young and Emerging Artist Fellowship [2017], the Max Afford Award [2014], the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award [2012], the Edward Albee New York City Residency [2012], a Matilda Award for Best New Work for Performance [2005], and Queensland Theatre’s Young Playwright’s Award [2001, 2002, 2003, 2005]. 

Productions include Breaking [Counterpilot, 2023], Horizon [Playlab, 2021], The Wind in the Willows [La Boite, 2015], and Trollop [Queensland Theatre, 2013]. She is currently supported by Screen Australia to adapt her play Anna Robi & The House of Dogs into a feature film. The latter was produced by Red Line at the Old Fitz in 2010 and was critically acclaimed.

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