TALKING POINT by Duncan Graham


There are voices in Australian theatre that debase the idea and value of the script, ‘the play’. They say it’s of no importance as a document, that it’s secondary to the rehearsal room, or the director’s vision, or the need to make things relevant and now. They claim, above all, that the script is not literature.

Without getting into a game of, who, or what is more important than the other – the director, the actor, the writer, the designer…even – yes – the audience? Or a debate, about, what is literature? Let us begin on even footing. Let us not privilege one element over the other. Let us acknowledge the collaboration, the essential nature of all these things in making a piece of theatre. It serves me to remind myself, so as to truly understand what’s possible when you begin to write for the theatre.

The way we speak – in this moment, in this country, in this city, on these streets, to each other, in our houses, at our places of work, the way politicians speak to us and to each other, the way we speak or do not speak to strangers, what we say or imagine we want to say to our lovers, our family members, the way we speak differently to each one of them, the way we struggle to find the right word, the way silence can be so eloquent, the way speaking is power, desire, imagination, emotion, concealment as much as revelation, divine and profane, the dialects, the ellipses, the wit, the turns of phrase from yesteryear, the idiom of the moment, the many world languages that make up our whole society, the words that never seem to be uttered from the truly repressed or marginalised – the way we speak is a shimmering reflection of the world…an ephemeral song that is always a testament to our times.

The theatre, as we know it, is an oral tradition. We are taught this by the language, songs, rites, stories and dreams of Aboriginal people, even before Homer or Aeschylus were a twinkle in the eye of our theatrical tradition.

And this is the field the playwright operates in. The playwright is the perverse mimic of her world. We translate fragments of the world into the written word, for transmission. Who would choose not celebrate the fact that the scripts of Aeschylus, Shakespeare, Racine, Beckett, Arthur Miller, Harold Pinter are in existence?

Who then would want the works of Australian playwrights to fade from the record?

We know what was discovered in re-staging John Romeril’s, The Floating World. I was lucky enough to have a work in the same season as that great play. Mine was Dreams in White. This script lives on past its first production. It is being reimagined as a film.  And it threatens to live again in other productions across the country. Each time I hope it transmits something of what I hear about my life with other people.

Griffin is a stage, a company dedicated to keeping a tradition alive, both producing theatre and transmitting documents brimming with clues about the world in which we live – play scripts. These scripts, the ones you pick up published by Currency, are the product of often very robust negotiations. They are not what the writer brought to the table. They are worked and reworked. They are a document of a process.

I am truly blessed in the opportunities afforded me by Griffin, in 2012 as part of the Studio, and in 2013 as a produced writer – the opportunities to make Dreams in White and other scripts sing, in acts of true theatrical collaboration.