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Q&A with the award winning Playright, Mary Anne Butler | Broken

What awards have you won for Broken and is it unusual for a play to win these types of awards? Broken has been an awesome trip for me, it started off winning the Northern Territory Literary Award for best script in 2014 and that same year it was shortlisted for the Griffin and then more recently it won the Victorian Premiers Literary Award for Drama and then they picked it to win the Victorian Prize for Literature which was pretty much a blow out, it was the first time a play has ever won the Prize for Literature and it was very humbling and amazing and it’s just been very affirming for me as a playwright.

What is the plot of BrokenBroken is based on the premise, it started with a Raymond Charmler quote, “Emptiness is the beginning of all things”. And it got me thinking of times in my life where I’ve been empty, this sort of ‘nowhere to go’. It sets up three characters who are all at major turning points in their lives. The actual play starts with a car accident so each of them is at a big crisis moment in their lives. I won’t give too much away because it’s a spoiler. Essentially the woman whose trapped in her car gets rescued by a passing mine worker called Ham. As the plot unfolds, it’s a bit jaggered, it sort of jumps time and place, you find out that Ham’s life is more complicated than he leads to believe and they start to  fall in love under the desert skies, but it’s not that easy.

What inspired you to write BrokenBroken is inspired by a real life incident where a woman was trapped in her car, on a remote northern territory road and she was trapped for 36 hours, she was close enough to the road to hear the traffic but no one could see her. She finally at the end of that time got rescued so it got me thinking about what it mean to be trapped in a car. In 2008, I lived in Alice Springs and I went for drive in my truck about an hour and a half down the road, and on the way back, night was falling and my radiator popped and I didn’t have enough water in my car. I was out there by myself, as night fell, with dingoes calling out across the landscape, I thought… I’m out here all alone - I have no water and no food, I have nothing, and no cars were passing. It just made me think about that remoteness and then desert night, that when it gets cold, it gets really cold. Fortunately a nice man came along with a big container of water and helped me out. But now I carry water when I drive out in the desert.


What is the play exploring? Broken explores a number of things. One of them is the sliding doors principle. What would our lives be if we didn’t have these lives? For Ham, for Ash and for Mia, for all 3 of them, they are all presented with alternate lives during the course of the play that they can take or not take. Broken also explores the concept of emptiness, that feeling of when we have nothing left, how do we find the resilience to go on? I’m very interested in resilience as a theme and that comes through in all my plays, I think.

Broken explores what resilience is for human beings, the concept of sliding doors, the lives we could have had if we didn’t have this one.


Are you happy that Darlinghurst Theatre Company is producing BrokenI am over the moon that Darlinghurst Theatre Coming is producing Broken! I love this theatre. I love the work that comes out of it. It’s cutting edge. It’s interesting. It’s dynamic. It steps over boundaries, it challenges the audience and I am so proud to have Broken as part of this extraordinary season. I really am!

When Darlinghurst Theatre Company told me that Shannon Murphy was going to direct Broken, I was absolutely over the moon. I met her very briefly at the Griffin Awards and I really liked her, I thought she was amazing and I love her work, so that was a real bonus.

The cast is brilliant! It’s my dream cast. Broken has also been picked up by the 2016 Darwin Festival. The director up there and I were looking through possible actors, and they weren’t available because Darlinghurst Theatre Company had already got them and that was incredible that we were looking at exactly the same people. It’s a fantastic cast, beautiful director, great design team. It’s just incredible really!

Anything else you feel that people might be interested in? Broken is very much an Australian story. It’s written by a regional writer, its set in very remote Australia where all the old stories used to come from, and I’m just delighted that a Sydney company has picked it up, deemed it relevant for city audiences - which it absolutely is - because it’s universal thematically. I’m just wrapped that Darlinghurst Theatre Company is looking beyond its immediate vicinity for writers, for talent, and for stories.


Posted 14 Jul 2016

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