“It’s a lot of people,” Butel says of the group, who will meet at the start of each weekly cycle to discuss a theme or provocation, before getting to work creating a series of 100 short, free-form pieces and monologues to be performed and recorded by local actors. “The hope is that even beyond this project there’ll be relationships formed within this group of writers – they could be dramaturgs for each other’s work, sounding boards or mentors… the notion of collaboration goes beyond this project, hopefully.
“The hope is that we meet 100 different, new characters over the next 10 weeks.”
Decameron 2.0 isn’t the only new project emerging from lockdown, with Playwriting Australia announcing a similarly expansive monologue project on Monday dubbed Dear Australia, featuring 50 actors and 50 playwrights including Nakkiah Lui, Richard Frankland and South Australia’s Elena Carapetis responding to the current moment. Windmill Theatre Co. will also launch Honey, I’m Home, an animation-based webseries spearheaded by local artist Chris Edser, in July,
This week will see the launch of PodPlay, a new limited series from independent company Theatre Republic that will also feature Carapetis’ writing in its first installment, Helen.
“As a result of the pandemic we had to delay our main production of the year which was The Bleeding Tree by Angus Cerini, and we had this gap open up in our calendar,” director and Theatre Republic co-founder Corey McMahon explains.
“I had this idea rattling around in my head for a while that we could create an audio drama series via podcast, that utilised local playwrights and actors,” he says. Spurred on by another government grant, the result was PodPlay.
“Normally we’re looking for work which is really responding to the kind of conversations we’re having in our lives every day. We looked at maleness, and male identity and relationships with our first show Lines, and we’re looking at domestic violence in The Bleeding Tree,” he says. “But this was really a callout to playwrights, asking ‘what have you got sitting in the bottom draw that isn’t likely to hit a stage in South Australia, that will translate to audio?’. But it turns out these short works are quite potent and topical anyway.”
While perhaps shaking loose the bottom draw, the first PodPlay season certainly isn’t scraping the barrel with Philip Kavanaugh’s Patrick White Playwrights’ Award-winning two hander Little Borders, Duncan Graham’s No Exit From The Roof, Emily Steel’s Rabbits (performed by State Theatre in 2017), and Carapetis’ Helen, all performed by local actors in a makeshift studio in McMahon’s home.
“Helen Back has never been produced, and I’m not sure if it ever will be,” Carapetis says of her ‘lost’ second play from which the Anna Steen-narrated Helen is lifted. “The whole play deals with how woman are objectified, and that women have historically been objectified into powerlessness.”
On the page, the excerpted monologue called for special effects to mimic plastic surgery being performed live on a performer’s face, before the audience is whisked away to explore the patient’s traumatic memories. “Having said that out loud, I realised what a huge feat of technology and special effects that would be,” she admits. “So in a way, it was great to adapt it for people listening, because their imaginations do all that for you.