‘The Turquoise Elephant’ wins 2015 Griffin Award for Best New Australian Play

3 Dec 2015
Dr Stephen Carleton
Dr Stephen Carleton

UQ Drama Senior Lecturer and playwright, Stephen Carleton, has taken out this prestigious national award for his grotesque take on climate change. The Griffin Award, run out of Sydney’s iconic Griffin Theatre Company in Kings’ Cross, recognises excellence and innovation in Australian writing for the stage. Artistic Director, Lee Lewis, has programmed the piece in her 2016 season accordingly, and says of the play, “It is a shockingly black, black, black political farce, it’s the sort of play that pushes itself into a season – it’s urgent, contemporary and perilously close to being real.” It will be directed by the legendary Gale Edwards, who, famous for her large scale musical and opera productions in London’s West End and the Sydney Opera House, will mark her return to new theatre writing with this project.

The award caps off a pivotal year for Carleton, who will also see his work return to the Brisbane mainstage when ‘Bastard Territory’ is produced by Queensland Theatre Company in April, 2016. That play, like ‘The Turquoise Elephant’, was written and researched as part of special study leave programs offered by the School of Communication and Arts to its permanent staff. As Director of Research, Tom O’Regan puts it, “What is so special about prizes like the Griffin Award is that they are recognition for plays that have grown out of Stephen’s research on the gothic form in drama, his exploration of the form with his students and visiting faculty, and his connections with the national theatre industry.”

It is very rare for Brisbane-based artists to have their work produced on the national stage. ‘The Turquoise Elephant’ will also be published by Currency Press, and ‘Bastard Territory’ will be published by Playlab, so there is a corollary effect that takes place as the work instigated by research at UQ finds its way into the seasons of Griffin and the Queensland Theatre Company, and then into published form by the nation’s two elite publishers of theatre texts. O’Regan states, “the involvement of Stephen with the QTC and with Griffin Theatre Company in Sydney, shows the ways in which professional theatre companies and dramaturgs based in universities can work together productively. Plays, novels, poetry and scripts are a vital component of the School of Communication and Arts’ activities. This creative practice as research has been an important part of our University research efforts the Performing Arts and Creative Writing field of research for which UQ has received an above average world score across in the national research evaluation assessments."

Brisbane audiences can see ‘Bastard Territory’ in the Bille Brown Studio from April 6-16, and ‘The Turquoise Elephant’ will appear in Griffin’s Stables Theatre in Sydney from 14 October-26 November. Tickets for both productions are available via the company’s websites now.