2014 Griffin Studio: Introducing Lachlan Philpott


The Griffin Studio is a year-long artist residency program that establishes career pathways for directors, writers and dramaturgs, and further contributes to the wealth of new Australian plays developed and staged at Griffin. We’re extremely excited to be working with our four Studio artists for 2014 and can’t wait to show them off. So, without further ado, we’d like to introduce Lachlan Philpott: award-winning playwright, dog-lover, self-proclaimed weird kid and 2014 Griffin Studio artist.

Griffin Studio Artist Lachlan Philpott and his partner Ross.

Where do you come from?

I am a 41-year-old Sydney-based playwright who enjoys travel, cake, dancing until late, honest conversation and long beach walks with old dogs. People who know me now find it hard to believe that I was quite shy as a child but I was. Shy and a little bit weird.

My parents were always generous and community minded.  When our local council built a new theatre in our area in 1984, my parents established a youth theatre company and they ran it for the next 24 years. It was here that I learnt a lot about the theatre and it was here that I found my tribe and a place where I could truly be myself. My parents aren’t nepotistic and it was here that I learnt that what mattered was not being a star but being part of a team.

I sometimes struggle with living in Sydney. For one, I don’t like the way we treat dogs here. This showy city seems to struggle with its own sense of identity and I wish we could be more efficient, clever and compassionate. But it’s my home town and I know it in all its glitzy glory, and I write about it and its terrible traffic disparities and pretensions.

I am lucky to have met an amazing Irish man, Ross, who is my soul partner. I can’t legally marry him in Australia yet but I campaign for the day I can.

The poster for Griffin’s 2008 production of Colder by Lachlan Philpott. Design by Jefferton James. 

What do you do?

 I have worked in the arts in many capacities but primarily I’m a playwright. I love my job. I understand what a privilege it is to be able to do what you love most and make a living from doing it.  I try to show integrity to my work, loyalty to artists who commit to working with me and respect to all my peers. I committed to the long haul and know that there will be ups and downs the same as there are fashions and trends in art. Turtlenecks come in and out but they always keep your neck warm. 

The highlights of my career have been many and unexpected. Every production is a highlight because it offers the most vital learning moments. I travelled to Africa and worked with young writers from across the continent and that was life changing. Similarly travelling to other countries and seeing my plays translated on stage in a completely different culture and language has been both thrilling and revealing. I have also travelled extensively to learn about play development models. Most recently I spend time in the US at play development centres across the country learning about writer-centred development models.

Some of the projects I am currently working on include a commission at Bell Shakespeare called Lake Disappointment, inspired by a body double; Furry at The Traverse in Edinburgh, inspired by a fox named Walter; and the screen play of Silent Disco which premiered at Griffin in 2011. My play M.Rock premieres at Sydney Theatre Company in June 2014. It’s about a gran who escapes Bexley and becomes a significant DJ force in European underground club scene.

Why do you do it?

I have to. There are stories that might not be told if I didn’t.

I gain pleasure from connecting with other artists or communities to research and create work. Most recently I have been researching two projects which have led me to connect with people from two communities opening up whole new worlds to me. For AlieNation I interviewed a range of Australians who claim to have been abducted by aliens. For my Furry project I interviewed people in Canada and the USA who identify closely with animals and adopt a persona [or fursona] of an animal and identify as part of furry community.

Production shot for Griffin and atyp’s 2011 production of Silent Disco, by Lachlan Philpott. Photo by Brett Boardman.

What are you most looking forward to, and what are you hoping to achieve during your year as a Griffin Studio artist?

My first professional production was Silent Disco produced by Griffin/atyp and Hothouse in 2011 and it changed my life. I want to make a contribution to Griffin because I strongly believe in the company’s pivotal role in the ecology of our culture. I want to support Lee’s vision to make exciting Australian theatre that connects to a wide audience and helps them to make sense of the society in which they live.

Personally, I never want people to know what to expect from me as an artist. If they can predict what I will do it might be time to try making pastries or body bags. So I hope the Studio can challenge me. My passion is strong and so is the fire in my gut. I seek opportunities for inspiring exchange with other artists, new collaboration and ways for me to keep my own work and perspective on the theatre fresh and fluid.

Without trying to sound too tragic, I am looking to belong somewhere for a while. Since my dog died, I spend way too much time talking to myself at home. I want to get dressed up and go somewhere on the train. I want to bake some muffins to bring in and eat and be a part of conversation about theatre or sneakers or last night’s disastrous date. I’m looking for interaction and the stimulation that comes from speaking and listening to others and working with them in many different ways.

Lachlan Philpott, January 2014