Australian Plays Transform

Max Afford Playwrights Award Announced

Australian Plays Transform and Perpetual Limited, as Trustee, are proud to announce the winner of the Max Afford Playwrights’ Award for 2022. Sydney-based playwright, Freida Lee is the winner with her new play The Bright Side of Bum Town.

The Bright Side of Bum Town tells the story of Madeira Cake and her parents Clementine and Bert. Set in a post-Covid-19 recession, it navigates financial and family stress, making it understandable for young audiences.

2022 judges Andrew Bovell, Glenn Shea and Emma Valente said: “The Bright Side of Bum Town is a captivating and relatable story that explores complex family relationships with humour and theatricality. Frieda’s play beautifully captures the experience of displacement and loneliness through the eyes of the wildly ambitious and whip-smart 12-year-old Madeira Cake. Smart, imaginative and visually bold; we the judges, think this play will make an outstanding contribution to the theatre for younger audiences.”

Frieda takes home $15,000 in prize money and the play will have a workshop development facilitated by Australian Plays Transform. “I am filled with awe that Andrew Bovell, Emma Valente and Glenn Shea have read my play, let alone liked it.” said Frieda. “I am bowled over, blown away and over the moon! Bum Town is very physical and visual. It’s silly and fun. To have the opportunity to experiment, play and find all the opportunities and moments that might be there— is all I’ve ever wanted for it. I wish I could tell Max and Thelma how honoured I am to be receiving their incredible gift. I will treasure it and make the most of it.”


The below plays were highly commended by the judges:

Croydon – Benjamin Nichol

Monument – Emily Sheehan

What’s Yours – Keziah Warner


Frieda has worked with brilliant Perth-based collective The Last Great Hunt on The Advisors (2017) and Improvement Club (2018). In 2017 she was a recipient of the Malcolm Robertson Foundation prize for her play All His Beloved Children. She acted for Barking Gecko Theatre Company in A Ghost in My Suitcase at the Melbourne International Arts Festival (2018), Sydney Festival (2019) and Perth Festival (2019). She collaboratively created (slash nearly died) making The Inconsequential Lives of Little Fish at The Blue Room Theatre (2018) with her husband Sam just after their kid was born. It was nominated for five Performing Arts WA Awards and Frieda won the PAWA for Best Actor in an Independent Production. In 2020 Frieda began The Bright Side of Bum Town as one of Griffin Theatre Company and Create NSW’s resident Incubator artists. She finished the play with the support and encouragement of the Sydney Opera House and is forever grateful. Frieda studied performance making at WAAPA and has an Arts/Law degree and a Master of Human Rights. 


The 2022 Max Afford Playwrights Award attracted 60 entries. Below is a breakdown of these submissions.

46% of applications came from female-identifying people, 26% from male-identifying, 13% from non-binary and 13% undisclosed.

11% of submissions were from culturally and linguistically diverse people.

43% of applicants identified as LGBTQIA+.

21% of applicants are living with disability.


The Max Afford Playwrights’ Award is an initiative of the late Thelma May Afford, whose will established a fund to offer a periodical prize in memory of her husband. The Awards are offered by Perpetual, as Trustee, and Australian Plays Transform.

The biennial award was created “to promote interest in Australian drama and to encourage the writing of plays in Australia, to help and give incentive to young writers of plays.” For this award, young playwrights are between the ages of 18 and 40.

The award is $30,000, which includes $15,000 in prize money to the playwright and up to $15,000 towards creative development with a director, dramaturg and a cast of actors facilitated by Australian Plays Transform. The creative development workshop will be scheduled between April and November 2022.

To be eligible for the award the play cannot have been produced or performed in public, or scheduled for production before December 2022. It must be over one hour in duration and must not have received support from Australian Plays Transform in the past.


Andrew Bovell (Adelaide)Andrew is an internationally recognised writer for the stage and screen.

Andrew’s works  for the stage include Things I Know To Be True, a co-production between State Theatre Company of South Australia and Frantic Assembly in the UK (2016) and a new production directed by Neil Armfield at Belvoir Street Theatre in 2019; an adaptation of  Kate Grenville’s novel The Secret River, directed by Neil Armfield, Sydney Theatre Company / Sydney Festival 2013, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane seasons in 2016 and Edinburgh Festival and National Theatre London 2019;  When The Rain Stops Falling,  Adelaide Festival of the Arts 2008, Sydney Theatre Company and Melbourne Theatre Company in 2009,  Brisbane, Canberra and Alice Springs in 2010. The play was produced in London at the Almeida Theatre (2009) and in New York at The Lincoln Centre (2010) where it won five Lucille Lortell Awards and was named best new play of the year by Time Magazine.  Productions of Andrew’s plays continue throughout Asia, UK, America and Europe.

Emma Valente (Melbourne) is a director, dramaturg and designer, and the Co-Artistic Director of The Rabble. The Rabble boasts an impressive history, having been commissioned by Melbourne Festival, Arts House, Malthouse Theatre, Belvoir Theatre, MTC, Theatre Works, The Substation, Vitalstatistix, Dublin Fringe Festival and Castlemaine State Festival. They have also toured to Wuzhen Festival (China), Brisbane Festival, Dark MOFO and Carriageworks.  

Emma’s works include: Corvus (2007) Salome (2008); Cageling (2010); The Bedroom Project (2010); Special (2011); Orlando (2012, 2014, 2015); Story of O (2013); Room of Regret (2013), Frankenstein (2014); Deathly/Death/Dead (2014); In the Bleak Midwinter (2016), Cain and Abel (2014 & 2016); JOAN (2017) and LONE (2018); My Dearworthy Darling (2019), UNWOMAN (2019), ulysses (2020) and NIGHT (2021).

Glenn Shea (Geelong) is an Award winning writer with 6 of his works published by Australian Plays Transform.  

Glenn was the first Aboriginal person to graduate NIDA with a degree in Dramatic Art. He is a researcher/curator; his work including the History of Blak Theatre 1967 – 2000 . Glenn is also the inventor/facilitator of the Indigenous cultural education resource THE STORYTELLER Board Game, which provides knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal people, society and cultural from a generic and non-political perspective through active learning pathways.

Glenn was commissioned by Country Arts SA for the Aboriginal Diggers Project. His play MI:WI 3027 was presented in the Raukkan Community Hall on the 23rd April and on ANZAC Day 25th April 2018 in the Dunston Theatre South Australia and an upcoming season at La Mama in Melbourne. Glenn has been awarded PWA residencies numerous times and his worked have been developed through PWA’s Ignition program. His work has been produced and presented by numerous Secondary and Tertiary institutions, Country Arts SA, PWA, La Mama, Melbourne Theatre Company and Screen Australia.

Glenn’s works include An Indigenous Trilogy, Dear Australia, MI:WI 3027 , Masterpiece, Some Secrets Should Be Kept and Three Magpies Perched in a Tree.

We acknowledge that we live and create on unceded lands. We pay our respects to the First Peoples of Australia, and to their elders past, present and future.

© Australian Plays Transform 2024