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Victorian Premier’s Literary Award Drama 2018

Nisha and Yvette



Understanding characters in plays allows the reader to relate to
different situations, backgrounds, and cultures.
Asian-Australian office cleaner Yvette clashes with
ambitious Australian-Indian Nisha corporate executive officer in multinational.
A lasting friendship begins.….


What is the play about?

  1. Michele Lee writes plays about women of colour.
  2. Rice is about an ambitious, self-obsessed Indian executive
  3. Nisha Gupta (28 yr) working for Golden Fields Company.
  4. She is the granddaughter of a West Bengal immigrant.
  5. She is ‘second in charge’ of an agricultural company.
  6. Yvette Tang (61 yr) is a Chinese immigrant.
  7. She is a single-mother, one daughter.
  8. She is an office cleaner.
  9. Yvette and Nisha.… multicultural women
  10. …making their way in modern Australia.



  1. Metaphor:  Nisha is on the top floor of the building
  2. ….successful.
  3. Metaphor:  Yvette  is in the basement of the building
  4. .…struggling with a menial job.


Strong point:

  1. Michele Lee uses parallels throughout the play to show
  2. us the connection between Yvette and Nisha.
  3. It took me 2 readings to discover them all!


Yvette and Nisha:  similarities

  1. both work in Golden Fields building
  2. both have emotional ties to family – yvette/daughter; Nisha/grandmother
  3. both are  ‘putting on an act’
  4. Yvette = “little old cleaner victim” – Nisha = “Your corporate act”
  5. both are businesswomen
  6. Yvette: Import.”You think I import plastics? (imports Prada knock-offs)
  7. Nisha: I’m E.O. of Golden Fields. I’m strategic!
  8. both live in suburbs of  Melbourne
  9. ….but at opposite sides. Yvette: Eltham – Nisha: Werribee


Strong point:

  1. The ‘tit-for-tat’  dialogue between Nisha and Yvette…
  2. It snaps, crackles and pops off the page.
  3. Nisha:  You’re the one with the vacuum cleaner. End of story
  4. Yvette: Not the end
  5. Nisha:  Chinese cleaner
  6. Yvette: Indian princess
  7. Nisha:  You’re a cleaner
  8. Yvette: You’re a baby
  9. Yvette: I empty. (complained that Nisha left her rubbish on desk an not in bin)
  10. Nisha:  Both my bins are full. Nothing on the table. Happy?



  1. They’re from different cultures, different generations
  2. …but  a bond develops between Yvette and Nisha
  3. Yvette: Act 1  Very fussy. Very big bitch. Hope she get fired
  4. Yvette: Act 3   (…she mumurs)  “I will miss you little shadow.
  5. Nisha:  Act 1 I stay. I eat. I make a mountain of rubbish for you.
  6. Nisha:  Act 3 You tell me what to do…Well I pretty much did, ok?
  7. Yvette: Act 3  “All you want is me to say you are right.”
  8. Nisha:  Act 3 “Say something about me. Tell me. Judge me


Echoes:  of friendship

  1. Act 1:
  2. Nisha “This is the part of the story where we first meet.”
  3. Yvette: “This the part where we eat.” (rice together….)
  4. Rice is an ancient symbol of wealth,
  5. success, fertility and good health.
  6. It is powerful.
  7. Act 3:
  8. Yvette “This is the part where we leave together.
  9. This is the part where we go.”


Yvette changes:

  1. Plays the victim …(act 2)
  2. …groveling at the feet of David Egan, son of CEO of Coles company.
  3. Does not express her opinion…”But not everything I think I have to say.”
  4. Change:
  5. Act 3 we see a ‘re-born’ Yvette with a voice!
  6. A voice in sync with the new generation….her daughter Sheree!
  7. “Mr. David Egan. Fuck you.
  8. “Coles is evil and the system is broken.
  9. And that is all I have to say to you. Mr. David Egan.”


Nisha changes:

  1. In the first two acts Nisha is a corporate ‘high-roller.”
  2. She has a better grasp of the world.
  3. She is is a little brighter than the next person.
  4. She is a high stakes player who is willing
  5. to place large bets and take risks.
  6. She is brokering a rice deal with biggest retainer in the world.
  7. Plot:  Nisha’s fatal overseas
  8. business trip to sell rice to the Indians.
  9. “Any day now this phone is going to sing.”
  10. …this is game-changing, history-breaking.”
  11. Change:
  12. Act 3 “I don’t do anything special. (E.O) It’s a bullshit title.
  13. Nisha once demanded Yvette clean….end of story.
  14. Now Nisha helps Yvette empty bins,
  15. …squashes the rubbish down and adds in new bin liners.
  16. She’s about to be fired….the rise and fall of Nisha.


Strong point: 

  1. Michele Lee allows Yvette a
  2. heightened level of knowledge about Nisha.
  3. The older generation may not have
  4. a Masters degree from University of Sydney
  5. but Yvette can teach Nisha.
  6. Yvette  shows her that she should not be afraid of
  7. shame…of failing…not being perfect.
  8. Yvette has learned that the hard way.


Nisha and Yvette help each other:

  1. Courage is the feeling we need to bring to the surface
  2. if we want to change things.
  3. Nisha helps Yvette find her voice and the courage to quit.
  4. The courage to be closer to her daughter.
  5. Yvette helps Nisha to see the world from ‘street level’
  6. and realize how lucky she is.
  7. “You need help? Huh? Why? You are young,
  8. you have a job. Look at you.


Strong point:  coded words, foreign languages…multicultural

  1. Echoes: Wo hui xiang nie de, xiao yingzi”
  2. This is the thread that connects Yvette to Nisha
  3. I will miss you little shadow”.
  4. Echoes:  “Tini bijoyer sathei aasen.”
  5. This is the thread that connects Nisha to Yvette
  6. and her grandmother.
  7. “She moves with victory.”


Valerie:  voice that makes you stop and think…comic relief.

  1. Valerie is a  60+ Russian who
  2. …is the cleaning service supervisor of Yvette.
  3. She is only in the first act…but has something to say!
  4. Valerie and Yvette represent the older generation.
  5. How is that fussy bitch? (Nisha)
  6. Fuck you time sheet! (cleaners trained for 2 minute only office clean)
  7. Why is this world worse than when we came into it?
  8. Don’t look so tragic. Life is shit. Company training say so.


Theme:  mother vs daughter

  1. Yvette Chinese cleaner  vs  Sheree political activist/law student.
  2. These are the emotional scenes
  3. a mother and a  daughter.
  4. Yvette and Sheree are from different generations.
  5. Act 1:
  6. “In this world you bring me shame, but I only have you…
  7. …you only have me.”
  8. They are exact opposites.
  9. Act 2:
  10. Sheree wants trouble,
  11. to step on corporate toes, be  a modern-day martyr.
  12. Yvette wants to keep a low profile… nose to the grindstone.
  13. Yvette has learned it does not pay ‘to make waves.’
  14. Act 2:
  15. Mother and daughter clash.
  16. Sheree speaks her mind: “You only do things for yourself” ….
  17. Yvette: “Your Ma, always, always, everything to help you, keep you….”
  18. In Act 3 I found the most poignant remarks by Yvette:
  19. “Thank you for being mine.”


What is different in this play?

  1. Characters: There are 11 characters in the play.
  2. but just two actresses on the stage.
  3. The women can change their voices, accents
  4. and stage lighting (according to the stage directions)
  5. helps differentiate the characters.
  6. TWO protagonists:  Nisha and Yvette
  7. story lines are   closely intertwined,
  8. …both in the plot and the theme.
  9. Structure: NOT  the classic 3 act play
  10. focus on 1 character – conflict-driven –
  11. cause and effect….progressively raising the stakes.
  12. This is OPEN MODEL:
  13. uses  parallel action, echoes
  14. events linked by coincidence
  15. ending, instead of resolution


Conclusion:  my thoughts

Note:  I have learned that when I read a play I know I will absorb only the basics during the first reading: characters, setting, structure of the play. The best way to read a play is just before bedtime. Then I try to retell mysef what the play is about. In the morning I have new thoughts about conflicts, parallels, repetition of phrases (echoes). Reading a play is more difficult than reading a novel!

Note: This play is a brilliant piece or writing that you will not realize if you just read it once. The subplots are good (Graeme, Tom, Johnny Song) but concentrate on the  main character’s dialogues of Nisha and Yvette.  Try to hear….what is NOT being said!  Michele Lee has deservedly won  prestigious prizes: Victorian Premier’s Award Drama 2018 and Queensland Premier’s Award Drama 2016-2017.

Note: Reading a play on Kindle…is not as much fun.  In the book I can make notes, highlight dialogue. Yes, I can do that on Kindle…..but I love having the script in front of me. It is an intimate reading of a playwrights hard work!  It is so much fun to dissect a play.


Australian ‘new to me’ or slang:

  1. ASOS:  – global fashion place for 20-somethings
  2. The Iconic: Australian/New Zealand   fashion place for 20-somethings
  3. bogan  – One of minimal intelligence, standards and fasion sense. Located in Australia, found in caravan parks, housing commission, the pub or Centrelink queues. (Urban dictionary)





Play: Pipeline

Karen Pittman as Nya


Title:   Pipeline

The title is inspired by Morisseau’s reading of the book The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (….on my TBR). She was struck by the school-to-prision pipeline. It refers to people who go straight from school right into prison…systematically creating a kind of social structure.



The play centers on Nya Joseph (Pittman), a dedicated inner-city high school teacher who sends her only son Omari to a private boarding school; a controversial incident causes Nya to rally to save her son from expulsion.


Single mom: struggling parent doing her damnedest – strong but burning out – smoker…sometimes drinker…holding on by a thread.
Public school teacher: inspiring students in a stressed environment. (character is modeled after playwright’s mother)

Black man, late teens: who is wrestling with identity- Nys’a son with a …private school education being from urban community.
Smart and astute – rage without release – tender…but honest to the core.

Latina teen: sharp bite….soft smile
profoundly aware of herself…and her environment

Ex-husband: mid-late 30’s – wounded relationship with Nya – financially stable – emotionally impoverished.

White woman in her 50’s:  pistol of a woman – can hold her own against tough students – doesn’t bite her tongue – a ‘don’t-fuck-with-me’ chick

Black security school guard: early mid-30’s – fit and optimistic – charismatic with women – genuine and thoughtful – trying to be a gentleman in a stressed environment. It’s not easy.

The cast:



  1. Morisseau grew up in Detroit, Michigan.
  2. Her mother’s family is from Mississippi.
  3. Her father’s family is from Haiti
  4. This is a deeply moving story of a mother’s fight to give her son a future
  5. without turning her back on the community that made him who he is.
  6. The quote that stopped me in my tracks:
  7. “What kinda nigga just sends checks and calls that fatherhood?”
  8. #Powerful
  9. Morisseau is on the list of Top 20 Most Produced Playwrights
  10. in America 2015–16, with 10 productions of her plays being produced.
  11. If you see one of her plays in the library….tuck it under you arm for
  12. …a great night at the theatre
  13. …..right in your own reading chair!


Playwright: Dominique Morisseau




Kitchen Sink Realism

Author: Dorothy Chansky

Genre: non-fiction
Published: 2015
Rating: B

Domestic labor has figured largely on American stages.
The genre “kitchen sink realism” both supports and challenges
the idea that the home is naturally women’s sphere.

1920’s – popular plays staged the plight of women seeking escape from the daily domestic grind
Ambush (1921)
1930’s–  recognized housework as work!
Awake and Sing (1935)
1950’s – maids gained a complexity previously reserved only for leading ladies.
Member of the Wedding (1950)
1960’s – problems and comforts of domestic labor in homes took center stage.
Raisin in the Sun (1960)

This is comprehensive analysis of kitchen and sink realism. Dorothy Chansky highlights plays that I never heard of  – Mine Eyes Have Seen (1918),  – Aftermath (1919) –  and it took some effort to immerse myself in them. Chansky discusses more than 20 different plays!  I did discover 2 female playwrights I would like to read:
Rachel Crothers – one of the most successful dramatists first part of 20th C.
Georgia Douglas Johnson – one of the earliest African-American playwrights. She was a participant in Harlem Renaissance.
If you are interested in drama and the societal impact these plays have had in the 20th C…this  book is for you!


Victorian Premier’s Literary Award Drama 2011

  • Playwright: Patricia Cornelius  (1953)
  • Title: Do No Go Gentle (act 1, 11 scenes – act 2, 13 scenes)
  • Published: 2011
  • Trivia: Winner Victorian Premier’s Award Drama 2011


Who is Patricia Cornelius?

  1. Patricia Cornelius is one of Australia’s
  2. most awarded and celebrated playwrights.
  3. It was difficult finding more about this woman!
  4. But here is a  quote from The Guardian
  5. that sums it up:
  6. “Cornelius writes plays that buck gentrified theatre trends.
  7. She is not fixated on romantic comedy or
  8. low-stakes middle-class angst about relationships
  9. …instead pursuing stories and characters needing a champion.
  10. She speaks out when few others would.


What is the play about?

  1. Cornelius uses an historical narrative Scott’s Polar Expedition (Act 1)
  2. and a group of Australian retirees in a nursing home (Act 2).
  3. Do Not Go Gentle is described by Cornelius as a survival story.
  4. Five explorers...watching the light fade as they realize ..the end in near.
  5. Five  80 year old elderly people
  6. nearing the end of the journey that is their lives.



  1. Cornelius uses the story of Scott’s expedition
  2. as a metaphor in act 1
  3. ….for living courageously in old age in act 2.
  4. The playwright interweaves parts of the poem
  5. …and Scott’s original diaries into the play.
  6. Rage , rage against the dying of the light
  7. repeated by the character Evans (act 1).
  8. He represents the ‘wild man’ in Thomas’s poem.


Stage design:

Act 1

  1. Scott’s polar party: five men:
  2. Scott, Wilson, Oates, Bowers and Edgar Evans.
  3. Ice sheets of Antarctica with the actors bundled in
  4. …mittens, reindeer boots, fur hats
  5. …in sleeping bags.

Act 2

  1. Group of retirees in a nursing home
  2. ...some in their late 50’s others in their late 80’s.
  3. Labyrinth of crevasses and ice towers are
  4. represented by white curtains around sick beds
  5. …while some actors sit swaddled in sheets shivering in the cold
  6. …in sleeping bags  (beds in nursing home)
  7. Note: white drapes, resembling all at once bedclothes,
  8. icy crevices, and the Terra Nova sails.
  9. Incredibly clever….P. Cornelius!


Who are the characters?    ….to keep track of who’s who!

  1. Act 1:
  2. Scott’s polar expedition party 1911-1912
  3. Five men , Scott, Wilson, Oates, Bowers and Edgar Evans.
  4. Scott (archetype hero) Scott was celebrated
  5. as a national hero, British ambition, courage and fortitude.
  6. Captain Oates (archetype victim) remains to this day
  7. the model of the secular martyr,
  8. ..sacrificing himself for the sake of his colleagues.
  9. Act 2:
  10. Characters:  multiple characters zigzag us through to the conclusion.
  11. (80’s ) Maria (dementia)
  12. (80’s ) Scott
  13. (80’s ) Wilson, Mary (married to Scot)…has her senior moments!
  14. (80’s ) Wilson Scot (married to Mary)
  15. (80’s ) Evans, Taffy
  16. (80’s ) Oates, Titus
  17. (50’s ) Bowers, Claudia (married to Alex) (dementia)
  18. (50’s ) Bowers, Alex,  (married to Claudia)
  19.  Creature ( = Peter howling like an animal…)
  20.  I didn’t understand this at all until…later  it is replaced by
  21. Peter (vision of shell-shocked Vietnam vet   (son to Oates)


Strong point:  juxtaposition

  1. Cornelius places these characters and their actions
  2.   in both acts side by side to
  3. ….develop comparisons and contrasts.
  4. Example:
  5. Scene act 1 scene 1
  6. ...members of polar party
  7. complain about the cold, can’t sleep,
  8. the place gives them the horrors
  9. while “leader of expedition Scott” gives them a pep talk.
  10. Compare with…
  11. Scene act 2 scene 2
  12. ...each retiree (in their 80’s and late 50’s)
  13. complains of their aches, pains,
  14. operations, loss of blood, prostrate etc.
  15. while “leader of expedition  Scott” gives them a pep talk.



  1. Characters are on a  journey.
  2. They play out the action in search of a quest.
  3. The restless nature of these older people reveal
  4. that they are trying to escape
  5. …the present or the inevitable. (death)
  6. The dedicated men of science in the expedition.
  7. They are trying do the impossible
  8. …be the first to reach the South Pole
  9. …and face perhaps failure …and death.


What did I learn by reading this play?

  1. Suspension of disbelief is en essential element in a play!
  2. I had just read a play filled with gritty realism The Drover’s Wife.
  3. When I read the stage directions to Do Not Go Gentle …I was confused.
  4. Maria in  elegant long white gown in bare feet standing on the ice
  5. …singing an aria from Verdi’s Nabucco  Va, Pensiero.
  6. What the fugg does this mean? …using my YA lingo 🙂
  7. But I  had to ignore the reality that was described in the stage directions
  8. and temporarily accept it as
  9. …theatrical reality in order to be entertained.
  10. Strong point:
  11. I was entertained and  AMAZED how  Patricia Cornelius
  12. incorporated these songs into her play
  13. …to emphasize the sufferings of
  14. Maria in her rapidly shrinking world of reality. (dementia)


Act 1  scene 1

  1. Maria  dresses in elegant full-length white gown standing
  2. …in her bare feet on the ice. (white tile floor of hospital)
  3. Va, Pensiero  (G. Verdi, from Nabucco)
  4. This is a great lament for a lost homeland.
  5. Maria  probably suffers from  dementia
  6. yearns for lost memories.

Act 2 scene 1

  1. Maria in elegant dress (hospital gown) (suffers dementia)
  2. …her bare feet on the ice (white tile floor of hospital)
  3. Solveig’s Song  (E. Grieg, from Peer Gynt)
  4. Solveig sings of the  hope and the promise
  5. …that we will still be loved no matter
  6. …how dire circumstances may become.

Act 2 scene 12

  1. Maria  wandering alone on the ice  (white tile floor of hospital)
  2. …(suffers dementia)
  3. She sings:
  4. Teneste la Promessa (G. Verdi, from La Traviata)
  5. Violette sings ‘take care’, shakes her head  ‘too late’
  6. knowing she has a few more pages to sing
  7. …before she dies.



  1. Reading a play is just like solving a puzzle.
  2. I start sorting out the title   Do Not Go Gentle.
  3. There must be something in the poem that will opo up im the play! Thomas’
  4. Before reading I listened to Thomas reading his poem…magnificent!
  5. Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night  (listen to the audio)
  6. Next I investigate the
  7. …characters, setting(s) and the structure (acts and scenes)
  8. Timeline between acts….giant leaps?
  9. …or close chronological timing?
  10. What is the point of view:
  11. one person or multiple narrators competing
  12. …with each other to tell the story.
  13. Then I skim through the play on Kindle and
  14. highlight just the stage directions.
  15. Entrances/exits …through door(s) or from a certain direction?
  16. What does the ‘off-stage’ area represent?
  17. After all that….I finally start reading!
  18. If you like puzzle….read a play!
  19. Patricia Cornelius  does NOT  disappoint!
  20. This is a heart-warming, thought-provoking, and
  21. hilarious, with conflicting elements.
  22. The result in a very fine play…worthy of
  23. Victorian Premier’s Literary Award Drama 2011 !!
  24. #MustRead


Quickscan:  Historical narrative  Scott’s Expedition

  1. Scott’s polar party: five men , Scott, Wilson, Oates, Bowers and Edgar Evans.
  2. They have reached the South Pole only to discover they have been beaten to it.
  3. The Norwegian Roald Admundsen had got there three weeks earlier
  4. – on December 14, 1911.
  5. Instead of being first the British party found a little tent
  6. topped by a Norwegian flag.
  7. Scott planted a Union Jack and, as he records in his journal:
  8. “Well, we have turned back now on the goal of our ambition
  9. …and must face our 800 miles of solid dragging
  10. – and goodbye to most of the daydreams.
  11. ”Then they embarked on their final nightmare.



Victorian Premier’s Award Drama 2017

Leah Purcell:  youngest of seven children born to an Aboriginal mother and caucasian father in the small Queensland town of Murgon (pop. 2000). Her work includes TV series and films. She has also had a formidable impact on the stage as actress, director and playwright. She has appeared in more than 20 productions.

So, I ask myself…why have I never heard of her?

It was time to discover some of the best that Australian literary world has to offer:  Henry Lawson’s story – The Drover’s Wife  adapted for the stage by playwright Leah Purcell

If I could get the opportunity to see Leah Purcell preform on stage I’d book tickets immediately! If you live in Australia…you are so lucky to have this talent on your doorstep!



  1. The Drover’s Wife is confronted by a threat in her yard, but now it’s a man.
  2. He’s bleeding, he’s got secrets, and he’s black.
  3. She knows there’s a fugitive wanted for killing whites,
  4. ….and the district is thick with troopers.
  5. But something’s holding the Drover’s Wife back from turning this fella in.



  1. A two room shanty, in the dense scrub land of
  2. ….Alpine country of the Snowy Mountains.
  3. A chopping block sits in the middle of the stage.
  4. An axe buried deep in it.
  5. Timeline:  3 days


Theme: survival

  1. The woman (Drover’s wife) is trapped
  2. …in a world of male dominance.
  3. The man (Yadaka) is trapped
  4. ….in a world of racism.
  5. They both do what they have to do to survive.


  1. Scene 2: Drover’s wife:
  2. “Cross me and I’ll kill ya.
  3. I’ll shoot ya where ya stand and bury ya where ya fall.”
  4. Scene 7: Drover’s wife:
  5. “But fight for my life, my children’s, I will.
  6. Make no excuses for.”


  1. Scene 6: Yadaka
  2. “My only true charge, missus is ‘Existin’ whilst black’.
  3. But fight for  my life, I will, and make no excuses for it.

What is the emotional power in the play?

  1. The emotional power in the play
  2. is the anticipation of the fate of  Yadaka.
  3. The shifts in the conditions of Yadaka and Molly Johnson
  4. at the shabby cabin….guide the direction of the dialogue.
  5. Another important emotional issue is the growing
  6. friendship between Yadaka and the Drover’s wife 
  7. …be it coded and sometimes implied in gestures not words.



  1. Leah Purcell took some qualities she admired
  2. in her Aboriginal family members and
  3. infused them into Lawson’s orginal cast.
  4. Purcell  brought more characters on the stage and
  5. deepend the dramatic impact of the story.



  1. The Drover’s Wife – full of fight and life – 40
  2. The main character is a women whose qualities in this play were inspired by the
  3. …people Leah Purcel has personally known:
  4. …generous, assertive, resilient women
  5. …who hold the world on their shoulders.
  6. Molly Johnson, the drover’s wife is a woman who is
  7. proud, works hard, plays hard and never gives up who she is.

  1. Yadaka (black) – 38
  2. Danny  (Drover’s wife’s son) – 14
  3. Thomas McNealy (swagman) – 60
  4. Douglas Merchant (peddler) – 35-40
  5. Spencer Leslie (trooper) – 35
  6. Robert Parsen (stockman) – 45
  7. John Mcpharlen (stockman) – 25


 Strong point:

  1. The dialogue is thick and fast.
  2. It  emerges from the character’s reaction to prior events.
  3. Yadaka’s  backstory, Drover’s wife… her marriage and children
  4. and the direct interaction between these
  5. …characters in the nine  scenes.


Strong point:

  1. Strong point: Henry Lawson provided a look at
  2. …bush life that appealed to his audience in the 19th C.
  3. Leah Purcell provides a look at bush life….that should
  4. …appeal to all in the 21st C.
  5. People who are now  seeking a change from the
  6. stereotypes of  the colonial past
  7. …that were the basis of Australian life.


Stage design:

  1. Provides the atmosphere and environment
  2. …of a particular scene or piece of action.
  3. The Drover’s Wife  stage is minimalist:
  4. There is a piece of dead tree,
  5. chopping block with axe wedged deep into it
  6. …and a curtain.
  7. Stage decor reinforces the action and
  8. gives the action depth
  9. …and a realistic context.
  10. Props: rifle, axe, prisoner’s iron collar, small coffin
  11. …boots, set of clean clothes, wood-heap, tribal spear.



  1. How does it feel to be a problem? (blacks)
  2. Yet being a problem is a strange experience
  3. …for one who has never been anything else.
  4. Leah Purcell is determined to change this situation.
  5. Classic Australian story adapted for the 21st C.
  6. …Leah Purcell has turned the plot upside down by re-imaging
  7. Henry Lawson’s classic story ‘The Drover’s Wife”.
  8. The black man is  not the menacing element
  9. ironically it is the white man!
  10. Leah Purcell shows a  strong connection
  11. to her aboriginal culture and community.
  12. She has surprised the theatrical world with is  powerful play!
  13. I imagine a conversation between Henry Lawson and Leah Purcell.
  14. Lawson has just read The Drover’s Wife to Purcell.
  15. Her response:
  16. “Great story filled with action, grit and passion...
  17. but I think I will ‘reimagine’ your story
  18. just once….my way!”
  19. There is an unexpected….twist in the plot.
  20. #Bravo Leah Purcell!



Alice Trilogy by Tom Murphy




  1. Tom Murphy  grew up in Tuam, County Galway, a tough frontier town.
  2. The youngest of 10 children, he saw his family “wiped out” by emigration.
  3. He was religious as a child, but had faith beaten out of him by the Christian Brothers.
  4. “The repressiveness of the Catholic upbringing was extreme,” he shivers


Tom Murphy thought is would be interesting to ‘paint ‘ 3 portraits of Alice.
Each portrait is independent of each other in terms of drama.
Act 1 does not dictate how events will happen in Act II or Act III

Timeline: 25 years.

is 25 yr – 40 yr – 50 yr.
— trapped by her own personality.
— more depressed with herself more
— than by her husband, family or anybody else.


In the Apiary:
1980 first scene: in the afternoon we meet. Is Alice losing her grip on reality? She he is 25 years old and communing with her alter ego in a dusty attic.

Stage directions:  Murphy compares Alice soft-shoed…darting around the attic. She finally stopping at a familiar place….like a rat! She takes 2 pills… like a rat  pushing them as a grain of corn into her mouth.


By the Gasworks Wall:
1995 second scene: Alice has summoned a lost love, Jimmy,  to meet her by the gasworks wall. Alice is now 40 years old and wants to meet up with a former lover. Like Alice, he is outwardly successful. Jimmy is serious about ‘connecting’…Alice admits she is just fantasizing and wants from here on in  just reality. Jimmy feels a fool…walks off. Alice is shaken and retires into the shadows.


At the Airport:
2005 third scene: At the airport… Alice is a 50-year-old woman sitting in an airport restaurant talking to herself while her rich husband silently eats. Alice is estranged from her grown-up children. Alice just rambles on and on about nothing.



  1. Playwrights want to ‘move’ the audience
  2. They want to create stories that generate an emotional response.
  3. I’m sorry to say….Tom Murphy failed and left me cold
  4. …and feeling nothing for dear Alice.
  5. Absolutely nothing….
  6. So when you get lemons….just make lemonade and
  7. …asked myself the question:


  1. Why do people stay in marriages that are going nowhere?
    After reading about two different women I thought I’d try to
    compare Alice in Alice Trilogy with Stella in Midwinter Break.
  2. Fear of being alone
    Alice fears being alone.
    Stella longs for solitude.
  3. Lacks courage to change their lives
    Alice cannot face up to change…the years will just drag on.
    Alice is not pro-active
    Alice knows what she needs to do to be fulfilled
    ….but she can’t do it.
  4. Stella wants to make something of the years she has left
    Stella is pro-active
    Stella knows what she needs to do to be fulfilled
    ….and she CAN do it.
  5. Fear of not being loved or accepted by anyone else
    Alice was in a loveless marriage but could not escape.
    Stella was in a marriage filled with love…but did not want to stay.
  6. Financial problems
    Alice is materialistic and very dependent on her indecently rich husband
    Stella is spiritualistic and is not concerned about financial matters.
    ‘All my life I’ve been putting cornflakes on the table […] the daily grind’.
    ‘I want to live a more devout life.”







#Read Ireland Two Pints (play)

  • Author: R. Doyle
  • Title: Two Pints
  • Published: 2014




  1. It took me 1,5 hrs and 2 Heinekens to read this play.
  2. Two Irish barflys…just shootin’ the breeze.
  3. For instance:
  4. “Nelson Mandela, he’d never should have left the Four Tops'”
  5. I haven’t laughed this much in years!
  6. The last chapter 25-6-14 was on of the best
  7. …but all the chapters are terrific!
  8. “Yeh have to admire Suarez, all the same.
  9. -Go on — why?
  10. -Well, if yeh were goin’ to bite an Italian–
  11. […] but He bit a f##kin’ Serb.
  12. –a f##kin warlord!”
  13. Last thought:   #MustRead





Mapping Irish Theatre

Irish cottage (or kitchen)….is often the setting of Irish plays!


Writer : Chris Morash, Shaun Richards
Title: Mapping Irish Theatre (175 pg)
Published: 2013


Who is Chris Morash?

  1. Professor Chris Morash is the first
  2. Professor of Irish Writing
  3. …in Heaney’s name at Trinity College.
  4. This appointment is permanent.
  5. The professorship was announced shortly before  Seamus Heaney’s death.
  6. Dr Morash is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada
  7. …with no Irish connection.
  8. He came to Ireland in 1985 to study Irish writing in Trinity.


What is theatre?

  1. Seamus Heaney put it very simply:
  2. …theatre is a machine for making place from space.
  3. Mapping Irish Theatre examines the
  4. …relationship between a society and its theatre.
  5. Irish plays are deeply entrenched sense of place.
  6. Place in Irish theatre involves a particular set of
  7. …relations to memory, loss and nostalgia.


What did I learn?   (…essential to understand if you read this book!)

Three forms of space:

  1. perceived -to be aware of directly through any of the senses
  2. conceivedto form or develop in the mind
  3. livedto be experienced between the performers and audience
  4. Space is different from performance to performance.
  5. Space is different through historical periods.
  6. Example:  I just read Tartuffe.
  7. It was performed 1669.
  8. But Chris  Hampton’s translation and adaptation
  9. ..that is to open in May 2018 in London
  10. …will be very different.
  11. Elements of language, dialogue, scenery
  12. will change over time.


Theatre space:

  1. It is an unspoken element of the text
  2. a zone filled with gaps where
  3. gestures and movements unfold.


What was the most difficult issue to understand?     Theatre signals

  1. The stage radically transforms all objects.
  2.  These objects have a signifying  power which
  3. …they lack in  their normal social function.
  4. All that is on stage is a sign.
  5. Door = theatrical signal
  6. For instance in a play…..we see a door.
  7. It is not only means of entering and leaving the stage.
  8. It is the focus point.
  9. Behind it is an imagined offstage world
  10. …that is just as important as the dramatic action on the stage!


What was the best part of the book?     I discovered so many types of plays!

  1. Padraic Colum’s The Fiddler’s House (1907)
  2. …stranger-in-the-house
  3. Brian Friel’s   Dancing at Lughnasa (1990)
  4. ….(cottage) kitchen  the kitchen- and- sink- play.
  5. Conor McPherson’s  The Weir (1997)  a pastoral play
  6. …our outside concerns are suspended  so that an
  7. act of inner healing to be achieved
  8. Tom Murphy’s Famine (1977)  historical outcome (unknown to characters)
  9. …but glaringly self-evident to us….famine/depopulation hangs like a cloud.
  10. Brian Friel’s Freedom of the City (1973) past-in-the-presemt play
  11. Characters  are simultaneously dead and
  12. …present before the audience!


What will I do now when reading a play…that I didn’t do before?

  1. Note: notice the first lines of plays….what do they refer to?
  2. Note: what is implied as happening or a place ‘offstage’ ?
  3. Note:  what is the conflict between  offstage  vs  on-stage?
  4. Note: important objects on stage…( first character we meet in
  5. Dancing at Lughnasa is is Marconi…the radio!
  6. Note: space on the stage: is it familiar to the characters?
  7. …home kitchen in  The Aran Islands (Synge)
  8. …exiles in an abandoned church  in Sanctuary Lamp (1975) T. Murphy
  9. The  characters have to learn about the space along with the audience.



  1. This was a very academic read.
  2. Example:
  3. Difficult way of saying things…!
  4. Morash: Play produced dialogically…
  5. Nancy: ….in other words …written in dialogue.
  6. How else are you supposed to write a play? (pg 115)
  7. It took me 3 days to read the book and my
  8. determination paid off.
  9. I never realized that a play is MUCH more
  10. …than a script  and actors!
  11. Chapters 2-3-4-5  were the best.
  12. Morash explains in more detail  specific Irish plays and
  13. …that was what I was looking for!
  14. The central to the craft of play-writing (Irish)
  15. …is the  shaping of experience into scenes.
  16. Opening of a play and starting to read it
  17. … is like going to a party where you don’t know anyone.
  18. Characters unfold in time and
  19. …first impressions  will be modified by later ones!
  20. #TimeToReadIrishPlay

 Chris Morash



Did you know there are 3 types of  theater spaces?

Arena – audience surrounds the actors


Thrust – audience is positioned on 3 sides of the stage ( Ancient Greece)


Proscenium –  the arc of the stage seperates  the actors from the audience


The Abbey Theatre  Dublin:

  1. The theatre first opened its doors to the public
  2. …over a hundred years ago, back in 1904.
  3. The original building was damaged by fire in 1951 and
  4. the Abbey had to be re-located but still remained active.
  5. The theatre offers a unique sound experience
  6. due to its wooden pallets, which are
  7. not obtainable anymore and can only be
  8. found in a few remaining locations worldwide.
  9. The Abbey holds 394 seats, that all share the same view.
  10. The idea was to get rid of the social hierarchy and
  11. guarantee every audience member the same experience.



#Read Ireland The Weir


Playwright: Conor McPherson (1971)
Title: The Weir (1997)
Theme: loneliness.    Setting: pub in isolated town western Ireland
Trivia: The Weir won Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play 1997.
Trivia: The Weir was voted one of the 100 most significant plays in 20th C
Genre: The Weir is a pastoral play. It gives the reader a slice of rural Irish life.
McPherson wants to contrast the country vs the city. …the actual vs the mythical storytelling.



1. Explain the title. The Weir In what way is it suitable to the story?
a. OLD – The weir is a barrier whose function originally was a fence made of sticks or wattles built across streams or rivers that trap fish. It acts as a sieve.
b. NEW – The weir refers to a local dam built in 1951 to regulate water and generate power. c. The title is suitable as a symbol between the contrasts in the play: old vs modern; world of folklore vs contemporary life; between agricultural tradition vs 20th C modern development.

2. What is the predominant element in the story?  Characters
Jack: garage owner, 50’s
Brendan: the owner of the pub 30’s (only listens, no story to tell)
Jim: garage assistant, 40’s
Finbar Mack: a local businessman late 40’s
Valerie: a Dublin woman 30.

3. Who is the single main character about whom the story centers?
Jack: is the main character. He undergoes the greatest change.
b. He is the talkative leader of the barflys, ‘old-school’ Irish,
c. devoted to the national beverage of Guinness.
d. Finbar: (foil for Jack) ‘get rich quick’ Irish real estate man, flashy, content to drink
e. the ‘last beer anyone would choose’ bottled Harp.
f. Valerie: incomer; city folk, drinks white wine; Brendan is flustered….Wine?
g. He finally finds a bottle he received as a gift.
h. When pouring her glass he fills it up as he would a pint.

4. How does the story get started?
The play opens on a stormy night in Brendan’s pub.
b. A rural Irish pub is located in an isolated town in County Leitrim.
c. Brendan, the owner of the pub, opens the bar, fills the till and checks the beer taps.
d. Jack and Jim (his regulars) are gathering for their daily pint.

5. Briefly describe the rising action of the story.
The action in the play is very subtle. The arrival of a stranger from Dublin city, a beautiful woman (Valerie). She has just rented an old house in the area.
The barflys want to impress her or perhaps scare her off (?) …with eerie stories about souls past, spirits present, ghosts and …half-haunted encounters. It is an authentic night drinking with locals who have the gift of blarney.

6. What is the high point, or climax, of the story?
a. 4: Valerie’s true story…(read the play and discover this for yourself!)

7. Discuss the falling action or close of the story.
After Valerie’s story the mood changes.
Jack’s talk with Brendan and Valerie is the last… is a confession.
McPherson bookends the play.
Brendan closes the bar.

a. Weak point: no real conflict. Play writing is all about conflict. The power of the play derives from the power of argument in the dialogue. In this play all I could find were a few verbal jabs about horseracing betting tips.
b. Weak point: I was looking for the ‘lilt of Irish humor, the…capacity to make rapid and irresistible remarks. In this play I only chuckled twice: at the beginning (defect beer tap) and at the end (who are the Germans, really?)
c. Weak point: play contains 3 ghost stories barflys tell each other that were not scary.

d. Weak point: This play does not come to life on paper. It….MUST have actors to relate the emotions in the dialogue. I read the play twice before making a conclusion. I wanted to see if I missed something.



  1. This was my first one-act play. It should be tightly compressed, short,
  2. with playing time max forty-five minutes.
  3. A single setting (pub) should be a ‘pressure-cooker play‘.
  4. The energy should build up, ready to blow off the pan’s cover.
  5. This play is ninety minutes long on stage.
  6. The play felt like it was quietly simmering on the back-burner.
  7. The only way to really enjoy the play is to see a stage performance.
  8. Playwright’s task is to create stories that generate emotional responses.
  9. I felt nothing.
  10. Some local color with expressions as yous , jays, and jayus.
  11. not a great play make.
  12. Why did this play win Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play 1997?
  13. I am #Clueless.



Conor McPherson


Girls and Boys


  • Author: Dennis Kelly
  • Title: Girls and Boys
  • Published: 2018
  • Director: Lyndsey Turner
  • Trivia: Kelly’s new play had its world premier at
  • The Royal Court Theatre in February 2018, starring Carey Mulligan.
  • Trivia: Kelly began work on Girls and Boys over two years ago in Naples airport
  • while waiting, …like the character in his play, for a flight.
  • Trivia: tipped to be nominated for Olivier Award 2018
  • Nominees are to be announced 06 March 2018.
  • Trivia: List Reading Challenges 2018
  • Monthly reading planning
  • List of Plays ( TBR)



  1. I never heard of David Kelly but the review of Girls and Boys caught my eye.
  2. It is praised as a master performance by Carey Mulligan.
  3. I wonder what all the hype is about?
  4. Dennis Kelly (1970) is a British writer for film, television and theatre.


Can you be taught to write plays?

  1. According to Mel Kenyon (D. Kelly’s literary agent)
  2. “I believe there is something instinctive about being able to create a dramatic arc.”
  3. “There are plays that masquerade as plays,
  4. with a big three-act structure,
  5. but there is no life force, no propulsion
  6. …they’re static. You can’t teach that.
  7. Dennis Kelly is a natural playwright.
  8. He feels a person’s pulse and expresses it in words.
  9. #Amazing



  1. There is no dedication.
  2. Kelly only adds a list of names of people he would like to thank.
  3. Sally Hawkins, actress.
  4. Lucy Kirkwood, Stephen Stephens British playwrights.
  5. Mel Kenyon is Kelly’s  literary agent.
  6. Matthew Warchus is Kelly’s friend
  7. …an award winning director.
  8. But the last person surprised me….
  9. Euripides!
  10. But wasn’t Euripides a writer of classical tragedies?



  1. This is not your usual list of acts and scenes.
  2. Kelly divides the play into
  3. 7 chats – narrator’s thoughts, life, job, marriage…at times flashbacks.
  4. 6 scenes – narrator’s daily grind at home
  5. …while confronting the antics of her two toddlers
  6. …Leanne (7 yr) and Danny (4 yr) (hysterical)
  7. …in one-sided conversations.
  8. It is just one actress…telling her story.
  9. Carey Mulligan is on the stage alone for 90 minutes
  10. …and charts with consummate skill the
  11. …disintegration of a relationship.
  12. This is a monologue.
  13. A potentially powerful but nonetheless simple form of theatre
  14. I was  ‘blown away’… this play…utterly…
  15. #Unforgettable.
  16. I only wish I could see it on stage in London.
  17. #MustSee…if you are able to get tickets!