In early 2018, local Canberra filmmaker Sebastian Chan invited me to join a writer’s room to develop a new comedic web series titled ‘Open Heart Therapy’. Produced by Sanguineti Media and Vorfreude Pictures, the series will consist of ten episodes, each ten to fifteen minutes long.
So far, the experience has been a blast. It’s been a real treat to work closely with Sebastian (who’s both writer and showrunner for the series) and the other writers — including Kirsty Budding, Erin Bingham, Joshua Koske, and Willian He — to build the series from the ground up.
From developing characters and story ideas to plotting episodes and character arcs, it has been a truly collaborative affair.
I was lucky enough to be able to write two episodes for the series — including the pilot.
Apart from the differences between writing for the screen as
opposed to writing for the stage, the whole experience has been unique. I’m
playing with characters I didn’t create, in a story world I don’t own.
At first, I thought these would be constraints, but if
anything, the freedom to concentrate on just my episodes has been liberating. I
think my scripts are stronger for it too.
In late January 2019, a cast of talented Canberran actors performed a table read of the entire series. It was a long night (about five hours!), and there are still a few issues to iron out, but I think everyone in the room was excited by what we saw.
The series will be entering the financing stage later this
year. Fingers crossed it finds some legs!
It’s been two weeks since my first full-length play The Inheritance had its last show at Belconnen Community Theatre. It was a short run – four days, five shows, and only six weeks of rehearsals.
What a ride!
I had a lot of anxiety going in: What if we don’t sell enough tickets? What if people don’t like it? What if an actor gets sick and can’t go on? What if everyone suddenly realises I’m not very good at this playwriting stuff?
Who’d have thought being a playwright could be so stressful!
Luckily, my play was in safe hands. Cate Clelland, our fearless director, ushered my story from page to stage with experienced finesse. Our actors brought their A-games. People turned up. Most seemed to have a good time (most!). And now that the dust has settled, I haven’t heard a whisper from the playwriting police demanding my playwriting licence back.
The world continues to spin …
Highlight of the week was being able to share my work with friends and family. I don’t see them enough, so being able to give them a glimpse into my silly little brain was a real treat.
I also got a kick out of talking to the friends and family of the cast and crew in the foyer after each performance. It was cool to see how proud and impressed they were with their loved ones, and it was great to know my little play could give them something to reminisce about down the road (“remember that ridiculous play you were in about the stupidly rich family …”).
The biggest surprise for me coming out of the production was seeing just how many people it takes to put on a play. It was humbling to see so many talented people volunteer their time and experience to get this thing off the ground.
With that in mind, here’s a big list of thanks …
To the crew, designers and set builders: Ryan Lee and all the other magical pixies! Don’t think I didn’t see you flittering about making stuff look great. Love your work.
To the front of house staff: Stephen and his many helpers. Every machine needs good lubrication. Thanks for popping those corks and keeping the happy flowing.
To the young cast: Erin Stiles, Vivian Murray, and Martha Russel. You started each show with a bang. If I had known we’d get such great young actors, I would have written more scenes for you!
To the “adult” cast: Linda Chen (for expertly playing the empathetic straight woman surrounded by class clowns); Jess Waterhouse (for taking “sassy” to a whole new level); Alexandra Howard (for making bitchy look dignified … and easy); Victoria Hopkins (for bringing depth, even from the confines of a toilet stall! Sorry!); Vivek Sharma (for bringing big laughs to a small role); Rob Defries (for keeping everything anchored in “reality”); and John Kelly (for bringing a dead guy back to life!).
To my fearless director, Cate Clelland: the script set you challenges, but you always had an answer. Big thanks for your frank feedback and words of encouragement. I learned a lot from watching you work. Best of luck with your future productions!
To my producer Kirsty Budding and Budding Theatre: thanks for taking a risk on me, and for your ongoing support. A lot of people seek permission to do theatre; you go out and do it. I love that, and I can’t wait to see what Budding Theatre does next. Until then, try and get some sleep.
As for reviews, The Inheritance got the full Hollywood treatment: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly! Some of the responses I expected; some caught me by surprise. Regardless, all the feedback has been insightful and beneficial.
Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned from The Inheritance is that you can’t learn until you do. It’s one thing to write a play, to hear a reading of it, to see it workshopped, to watch it rehearsed, to get written feedback on a script, to discuss it with friends etc. It’s something else entirely to see it in full flight on a stage with a set, lights, and audience. Only then do you see the full picture: what works; what doesn’t; what could have been done different; what special nuggets were always hidden inside. I can honestly say that the five shows I saw of The Inheritance has taught me more about playwriting than anything I’ve done before. I have no doubt it has made me a better writer for the experience.
So what next? Hopefully The Inheritance will live on in one form or another. I’ll make a few adjustments, send it around, see if anyone is interested in it. I have a suspicion this won’t be the last time I see this wacky family butting heads on stage or on screen.
In the meantime, it’s back to the keyboard. The best advice I’ve ever been given as a writer (apart from “read … a lot”) is to not delay tackling a blank page. So, I’m diving back in. I’ll do what all writers must do when they get to the end of a story – start again.
A few years back I was writing my first full-length play as part of the Hive development program (run by Canberra’s Street Theatre). It was going to be a serious play about serious things – family, death, secrets, betrayals etc. It was going to be deep and meaningful and emotive. It was going to be my first foray into “real” theatre writing.
Unfortunately, I got about ten pages in and was utterly bored!
So, I switched tracks. I abandoned drama and dove into the more familiar pool of comedy. I had another piece I had been tinkering with on and off for a few months. It was supposed to be a ten-minute play. But the more I wrote, the more it demanded that I keep adding to it, keep delving into it, keep letting it unfold. For the first time in my theatre writing life, the characters didn’t want to stop playing on page ten. They demanded more: more lines, more laughs, more everything.
Who was I to argue?
I toiled for a few months on a first draft. Most of it I wrote while on holidays in Townsville where I was visiting my wife while she was on work placement. I sat under a ceiling fan on the deck of an old Queenslander trying to ignore biting mosquitos and the screech of curlew birds nesting across the street. It was hot, sticky, uncomfortable. It was the best month of my writing life!
So started The Inheritance – a silly and farcical play about an eccentric family struggling to reconnect after the death of their billionaire father. I’m not sure where the story came from. Not personal experience. My family is odd, but not rich enough to be eccentric. But after weeks of banging words into a computer, there it was. A play. A long play. My long play.
Bristling with the kind of confidence only a newly completed manuscript can give, I took my shiny new draft back to the Hive for review. Unfortunately, they were not as impressed with my efforts as I was. The dramaturge and his offsider smiled and politely told me the script was “funny in places” and that “the last scene should be the first scene”. Essentially, they were saying, “Is this all you’ve got?”
To be fair, this was all valid (and helpful) feedback. The Inheritance is not a cutting-edge, boundary-pushing piece of writing. It’s not reinventing theatre or revolutionising drama. Not my style. I write to entertain. To have fun. To make people laugh. Sure, I hope to impart some insightfulness here and there, perhaps even shed some light on something innate or intriguing. But primarily, I want to make sure people have a good time watching my play.
The rather unenthused feedback left me feeling flat and dejected. I thought perhaps this playwriting thing wasn’t for me. Maybe I should be looking at other mediums. TV? Skits? That would be great, but there aren’t exactly a lot of opportunities in Canberra for that. So, I put The Inheritance in the bottom drawer and set about writing another play. Something new. Something dramatic. Something “theatrely”.
This second play took about six months to write. It had everything I thought a theatre company would like – family, death, secrets, betrayals etc. But alas, this play didn’t get much love either. Whatever the theatre folks were looking for, I didn’t have it.
So, I stopped. For a while. I wrote some short comedic pieces. Had a baby. Started to teach myself photography. You know, life stuff …
About a year later I woke up thinking about The Inheritance again. This was unexpected. Mentally I’d put the play to bed, filed it away under “Play Attempt Number 1”. But for some reason, it came back to me. I opened the bottom drawer and dusted off the last version I’d printed out. I took a read. Tried to be objective and self-critical.
The play wasn’t perfect. It had an odd structure, too many characters, the stakes were a little dubious. It took place entirely in an office and a toilet for crying out loud!
But despite its flaws, there was something compelling about it. It was funny. I don’t usually laugh at my own stuff, but I couldn’t help but chuckle as I flicked through the pages. The characters, though a little over the top, felt real. The family dynamic was authentic.
Put simply: the play had life.
I got to work again. I drafted, refined, cut some characters, added in new scenes, tried to give the story a better balance and a better arc. After a few more passes I was content that it was “a thing”. Unfortunately, I had no idea what to do with it.
So back into the drawer it went.
Another year passed. One day I found myself chatting with Kirsty Budding of Budding Theatre. Budding Theatre has always been a supporter of my work, and that of other writers looking for a collaborative place to experiment, have fun, and get their work in front of a real audience.
I took a punt and told her about The Inheritance. I said, “It’s a bit silly, and not exactly Shakespeare, but I’m pretty sure people would have fun watching it.”
To my surprise, she said, “Send it through, I’ll take a look”.
Before I knew it, The Inheritance started to attract supporters. We organised a table read with some actor friends. Kirsty found a director – the awesomely talented Cate Clelland (a bit of a Canberran theatre legend). A casting call went out. Auditions were had. A cast was assembled. Next thing I know I’m standing in a room full of people talking about my characters and getting photos taken for the play’s promotional materials.
The Inheritance had started to breathe.
I don’t know how the play will go down or what to expect. I still don’t consider myself a real “theatre writer”. I think “comedy writer” is closer. Regardless, I write for fun. If the cast has a good time, if the director gets a kick out of playing with my characters, if the audience has a few laughs and goes home feeling good about their night out, then I will consider the play a success.
Anything else is a bonus.
The Inheritance will be performed at Belconnen Theatre on August 16, 17, 18, 19 at 8pm, with a 2pm matinee on the August 19.
I’m jolly excited that my new play Statistically Speaking will get a short run as part of Budding Theatre’s SANTA, BABY! short-play showcase on 16 & 17 December at the Courtyard Studio (Canberra Theatre).
Statistically Speaking tells the quirky tale of a statistician looking for love in all the probable (but not predictable) places. It features the ever-awesome Philip Meddows as Milton and the delightful Felicity Knott as Rach. Yours truly will be directing!
Following up from the success of UNWRAP ME in 2014, SANTA, BABY! will include nine short, Christmas themed plays written by Canberra playwrights and performed by local actors. The full line-up includes:
Mother and Child by Kate Roediger
Statistically Speaking by Greg Gould
Christmas Cheers by Frances McNair
Gingerbread or Smarties by Zoe Swan
Reindeer in Red by Kirsty Budding
Christmas in Yorkshire by Harriet Elvin
The Christmas Fairy by Adele Lewin and Nigel Palfreman
Xmas Is What You Make It by Bronwyn Vanzino
Not What You Expected by Judith Peterson
Featuring songs, angels and a visit from Santa, SANTA, BABY! is a Christmas event not to be missed. All profits go to wildlife conservation charity The Thin Green Line Foundation.
Last Drinks was my first Crash Test play back in 2012. Since then it has become one of my most performed pieces with almost a dozen productions throughout Australia and abroad. In 2013 it won People’s Choice at Short+Sweet Canberra and was a Gala Finalist in Short+Sweet Auckland. Recently it was part of the inaugural Shorts on Stage ten-minute play festival at Noosa Arts Theatre.
Apart from the buzz of getting to see Last Drinks live again, I’m excited that this version will feature the talents of Rob Defries and Helen Way. Rob and Helen were the first actors to take Last Drinks into the Crash Test arena, and I’ve been itching to get them back in the roles. Added to this, the awesome Phillip Meddows will be directing! What more could a playwright ask for?
Best of Crash Test is a celebration of Crash Test Drama Canberra, a moved reading event aimed at developing original work and fostering creative collaboration. Since kicking off in 2012, Crash Test has played a key role in the emergence of a dynamic, energetic and inclusive ten-minute play scene in the ACT. A number of writers, actors and directors that have taken part of Crash Test Drama Canberra have gone on to enjoy success in ten-minute play festivals and competitions worldwide.
The full line up for Best of Crash Test is:
“My Undies are Evil” written and directed by John Lombard
“A Dog’s Life” written and directed by Angus Algie
“Sprung” by Nigel Palfreman, directed by Kirsty Budding
“Cupid’s Waiting” by Kate Roediger, directed by Rob Defries
“Cuts” by Mary Langdon, directed by Marcus Freeman
“Wardrobe Diplomacy” by Harriet Elvin, directed by Amanda Gillespie
“Money Rats” by Kirsty Budding, directed by C.S. Carroll
“Last Drinks” by Greg Gould, directed by Philip Meddows
The plays range in subject and style, from outlandish comedy to subtle political satire. All look to be a lot of fun.
The Best of Crash test kicks off at 7pm on 25 & 26 of June at the Courtyard Theater. Tickets are on sale via Canberra Theatre. The show is produced by the ever-enterprising Budding Theatre.
Note: this show is not suitable for children. There will be bad words. And sexy words. But mainly bad words.
My newest short play, Stargazers, will be Crash Tested on 1 November by the always entertaining folks at Crash Test Drama Canberra.
Crash Test Drama is a local moved reading and networking theatre event. In a single afternoon, a bunch of new ten minute plays will be cast, rehearsed and performed script-in-hand in front of an audience. The audience then votes for their favourite play, and the judges give out awards for acting and direction.
This round, six ten-minute plays will be put through their paces, including works by Harriet Elvin, Angus Algie, Greg Burgess, Jim Jones, Kirsty Budding and … me.
Crash Test is super fun, and a great way to iron out your ten-minute play kinks. Can’t wait to see what they come up with.
Crash Test takes place on 1 November at Theatre 3. Casting and rehearsals start at 3pm. Performances start at 5. Actors and directors who want to take part should contact Budding Theatre.
If you like theatre that’s fast, fun and a little bit out of control, be there!
Short+Sweet Canberra 2015 wrapped up on Saturday 15 August with the Gala Final at the Courtyard Studio Theatre. I am delighted that The Truth About Mum and Dad picked up a few gongs: People’s Choice and Best Script.
My cast were also among the winners! Brendan Kelly took out best male actor for his portrayal of Jason, and Jess Waterhouse was nominated for best female actor for playing Mel. Brendan and Jess nailed their performances and took my script to a whole other level. Congrats and gratitude to both.
Truth be told, I am humbled the play took out the awards it did. There were a bunch of fantastic plays on offer that could have scooped the awards pool.
Alison McGregor’s Beautiful, featuring her beloved burlesque character Sparkles, was a shining light throughout the festival – funny, clever, poetic, and theatrical in every sense of the word.
Ruth Pieloor’s Baby Blues, featuring a hilarious puppet baby, wonderfully exposed the (often self-inflicted) neuroses of a new parent. As a new father, this one struck a few chords for me!
Pete Malicki and Alex Broun, veterans of the 10-minute-play format, also put up some great work. Malicki’s The Long Game was tightly written and superbly performed by Sydney-based actor, Yannick Lawry. Broun’s Grace was spectacularly staged and moving. When these guys put up work, you’re rarely disappointed.
My favourite play at the Gala however was Kirsty Budding’s Sluts and Stars. Budding is a driven and talented local playwright and theatre-maker. Her work with younger performers is especially outstanding. Sluts and Stars was another great example of her ability to crack open the mind of a modern teenager in a way that is enlightening, empathetic, and not afraid to ask the important questions.
The end of Short+Sweet Canberra 2015 also marks the end of Kate Gaul’s oversight of the event. After three years as festival director, Kate will be handing the reigns over to local theatre-man Trevar Alan Chilver. No doubt Trevar will bring Short+Sweet back bigger than ever in 2016.
Congrats to everyone involved in this year’s festival. A lot of fun was had by all.
Unwrap Me, a showcase of Christmas themed short plays by new and emerging Australian playwrights, wrapped up with a sold out show at the Courtyard Studio on Saturday 20 December.
My play “Sexy Beth’s Giant Dildo Collection” closed out the show, and I am delighted to report that the reviews have been very positive. Below are a couple comments I particularly enjoyed:
Greg Gould’s “Sexy Beth’s Giant Dildo Collection,” dealing with honesty in family relationships, hit the spot in both writing and directing.
– Helen Musa, CityNews (read entire review)
The evening ended with perhaps the best written script: Sexy Beth’s Giant Dildo Collection by Canberra-based Greg Gould. […] The quality of the writing is in the immediately established genuineness of the feelings and motivations of each of the characters …
– Frank McKone, Canberra Critics Circle (read entire review)
Overall Unwrap Me was a fantastic and fun production to be involved in. Big congratulations to Budding Theatre for pulling the show together, and for fostering a truly inclusive and “can-do” approach to theatre making. I have no doubt they will continue to put on amazing shows in the future.
I’d also like to thank my amazing cast Brendan Kelly, Alison McGregor and Rob de Fries. As a first time director I knew I needed to surround myself with experienced and talented actors, and I couldn’t have asked for a better troupe to work with. They took my script and lifted it to another level. In fact, they knocked it out of the park!
Tickets for Unwrap Me, a Christmas showcase of short plays by new and emerging Australian playwrights, are now on sale.
My play “Sexy Beth’s Giant Dildo Collection” is one of ten short plays being performed in what looks to be an eclectic mix of silly season madness. I hear there’s even going to be carols (songs, not people named Carol …)!
Unwrap Me opens on December 18 at the Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre, with follow up shows on the 19th and 20th.