This is one of the most complex projects we have undertaken and it was in process for over two years. We were  so fortunate in receiving support and assistance from many people – first and foremost the playwrights and their estates, Currency Press, the many agents who represent writers, the staff of Playbox’s successor, Malthouse Theatre, the Performing Arts Collection at the Arts Centre, Jeff Busby who gave us permission to use his beautiful production images and, of course, the staff of Playbox, particularly its General Manager Jill Smith, and its two Artistic Directors Carrillo Gantner and Aubrey Mellor.

The collection focuses on what I came to call its ‘All Australian Period’ which began in 1990 with its move to the then newly converted C.U.B.  Malthouse in Sturt Street, South Melbourne. It is important to acknowledge that Playbox has always had a strong commitment to Australian plays and playwrights, a tradition which Malthouse Theatre continues to honour.

But these were different times. The energy of this phase of Playbox’s life flowed from the ‘New Wave’ in Australian playwriting (and theatre making) which had begun in the late 1960’s, led by writers such as David Williamson, Jack Hibberd, Dorothy Hewett and many others.

As the 70’s went on and newer writers such as Stephen Sewell, Louis Nowra and Alma de Groen appeared, the work started getting larger scale and more epic. Plays like Sewell’s The Blind Giant is Dancing, Nowra’s Inner Voices and de Groen’s The Rivers of China were challenging their audiences to take themselves seriously in the political realm, and to understand Australia as a significant player in world politics and culture. This was an amazing time for artists (and audiences) in Australia; an outpouring of creativity across the board, and a sense of ‘right time, right place’ across the foyers, galleries and concert halls of the country.

I graduated from drama school in 1989, a couple of months before the opening of the Malthouse, and I remember that, as much as we were talking about the ‘global village’ then, it still felt like the true role of an artist was to do Australian work. It felt possible. It felt exciting. It was a different world.

The policy of the new Playbox was that it would produce not only almost exclusively Australian work (with some contemporary Asian content), but also that these works would almost all be world premieres. It was a heady vision. And for fifteen years, that is what it did. As a result, Playbox developed many brilliant voices: Joanna Murray-Smith, Hannie Rayson, Richard Frankland, Michael Gurr and Ben Ellis, to name a few. It programmed established writers, and writers of whom no one had ever heard. It commissioned works, including Ariette Taylor’s Sabat Jesus and Jenny Kemp’s Black Sequin Dress. The ongoing development work it undertook with readings, commissions and workshops was enormous in its scope and exhausting in its capacity.

I can’t let this introduction go by without acknowledging and celebrating the amazing partnership between Playbox and the Ilbijerri Theatre Company. This is a major part of its legacy, and speaking strictly personally, the most significant. The unforgettable STOLEN, CONVERSATIONS WITH THE DEAD, The BLAK INSIDE program were all a result of Playbox and Ilbijerri’s ongoing collaboration in this period, which produced some of the most powerful texts in the Australian canon.

I worked at Playbox as Aubrey Mellor’s associate for five years (1999-2003). I remember thinking then, as I do now, that the Playbox vision was an impossible but yet wonderful aspiration. Research and Development in any sector is a vast, speculative and risky undertaking. When it plays out in full public glare, there is nowhere to hide. This is a given in the theatre. There is only so much you can understand without putting the work in front of an audience, and to do that effectively you need to rehearse and present the work as fully as possible. Sometimes it was magic; sometimes it was heartbreaking. But it was an amazing time and it left us with a staggering collection of texts, many of which as I re-read them, are as vividly connected to us and our world now as they were then – some even more so.

It is sometimes difficult when framing a collection such as this to avoid nostalgia. I know there are many people in the industry who mourn this time, not just for the demise of Playbox, but for a period of great flourishing in the arts across the board.  Speaking personally, I value the current scene – the writers, makers, actors, directors and designers – as much as I did then. The times are very different, and the theatre is responding accordingly. That, to me, is as it should be. Theatre is, by necessity, a fashion-driven form. As Heidi Klum continually reminds us, ‘in fashion sometimes you are in, and sometimes you are out’. Comes with the territory. But the writers’ works remain as evocative time capsules of the world in which they were written. They record what we cared about, what we were passionate about, what was obsessing us. As such, they are objects of enormous cultural value. They remind us from where we have come, and sometimes to where we might go. The Playbox texts are the legacy of a brave and passionate cultural experiment: an experiment that created a generation of artists. We are so proud to be able to collect and preserve them, and to know that they remain visible and available to be read and performed.

To every playwright, I say ‘respect’. This is a monstrously difficult form and the times are particularly stressful. Now, as then, we need vision and courage. We need leadership. The All Australian Playbox experiment was bold, passionate and visionary. These works are the living proof.

Tom Healey,
Literary Manager (2010 to 2018)


Other Scripts



Forty Lounge Café

Tess Lyssiotis

Beckett Theatre, 15th March, 1990


Café Fledermaus

Robyn Archer

Merlyn Theatre, 24th May, 1990: WORLD PREMIERE


Peach Melba

Thérèse Radic

Beckett Theatre, 8th June, 1990: WORLD PREMIERE


Hotel Sorrento

Hannie Rayson

Merlyn Theatre, 27th July, 1990: WORLD PREMIERE



Joanna Murray-Smith

Beckett Theatre, 2nd August, 1990: WORLD PREMIERE


Sabat Jesus

Ariette Taylor

Melbourne Town Hall, 13th September, 1990: WORLD PREMIERE (with Melbourne International Festival of the Arts)


Modest Expectations

David Allen

Beckett Theatre, 1st November, 1990: WORLD PREMIERE



Ron Elisha

Merlyn Theatre, 15th November, 1990: WORLD PREMIERE



Michael Gow

Merlyn Theatre (return season), 5th October 1990



Stephen Sewell

Beckett Theatre, 2nd March, 1991: WORLD PREMIERE


Alive and Kicking

Judy Bierwirth

Merlyn Theatre, 4th May, 1991: WORLD PREMIERE


Earthly Paradise

Darryl Emmerson

Beckett Theatre, 8th June, 1991: WORLD PREMIERE


The Adman

Robert Hewett

Merlyn Theatre, 20th July, 1991: WORLD PREMIERE


The Newspaper of Claremont Street

Adapted by Alan Becher & David Britton, from Elizabeth Jolley’s novel

Beckett Theatre, 10th August, 1991


Heroic Measures

Tom Lindstrom

Merlyn Theatre, 29th October 1991: WORLD PREMIERE


Early Days Under the Old Hat

Pam Leversha

Beckett Theatre, 16th November, 1991: WORLD PREMIERE



Tobsha Learner

Beckett Theatre, 3rd April 1992: WORLD PREMIERE


Ginger: A Musical Diversion

devised by Lois Ellis,  Tommy Kalinski, Evelyn Krape & Lorraine Milne

Beckett Theatre, 30th October, 1992: WORLD PREMIERE


The Chronicle of Macbeth

William Shakespeare

Union Hall, Adelaide, 28th February, 1992 (with Adelaide Festival)

then in the Merlyn Theatre, 12th March, 1992


A Dickin’s Christmas

Barry Dickins

Merlyn Theatre, 30th November, 1992: WORLD PREMIERE


Sex Diary of an Infidel

Michael Gurr

Beckett Theatre, 26th June, 1992: WORLD PREMIERE


Mary Lives

Frank Hardy

Merlyn Theatre, 6th June, 1992: WORLD PREMIERE


The Emperor Regrets

Thérèse Radic

Merlyn Theatre, 2nd October, 1992: WORLD PREMIERE


King of Country

Tim Gooding

(no theatre specified) 24th July, 1992


The Newspaper of Claremont Street

Adapted by Alan Becher & David Britton, from Elizabeth Jolley’s novel

(Return Season), 20th October 1992


The Temple

Louis Nowra

Merlyn Theatre, 23rd July, 1993: WORLD PREMIERE


The Garden of Granddaughters

Stephen Sewell

Beckett Theatre, 16th April, 1993: WORLD PREMIERE


Love Child

Joanna Murray-Smith

Beckett Theatre, 18th June, 1993: WORLD PREMIERE


Big Toys

Patrick White

Merlyn Theatre, 28th May, 1993


King Lear

William Shakespeare

Beckett Theatre, 19th October, 1993



(no theatre specified),

2 plays opened 15th November, 1993 &

2 plays opened 16th November 1993


Margaret Cameron

What’s a Girl to Do?

Deirdre Rubenstein

Man to Man

Manfred Karge


Sue Ingleton


A Happy and Holy Occasion

John O’Donohue

Merlyn Theatre, 27th February, 1993



Barrie Kosky & Yoni Prior

Beckett Theatre, 23rd March, 1993


Simply Irresistable

Caroline Gilmer

Merlyn Theatre, 21st September, 1993


Sex Diary of an Infidel

Michael Gurr, 29th September, 1993

(return season)



William Yang

Beckett Theatre, 14th September, 1993



Michael Gow

Beckett Theatre, 11th March, 1994

(originally presented by Sydney Theatre Company, 1991)


Disturbing The Dust

Merlyn Theatre, 15th March, 1994: WORLD PREMIERE



David Williamson

Merlyn Theatre, 4th May, 1994: WORLD PREMIERE


Underwear, Perfume and Crash Helmet

Beckett Theatre, 11th July, 1994: WORLD PREMIERE


Falling From Grace

Hannie Rayson

Merlyn Theatre, 9th August, 1994: WORLD PREMIERE


Remember Ronald Ryan

Barry Dickins

Merlyn Theatre, 21st September, 1994: WORLD PREMIERE


On the North Diversion Road

Tony Perez

Victorian Arts Centre, 20th October, 1994: AUSTRALIAN PREMIERE

(with Melbourne International Festival)


Picasso at the Lapin Agile

Steve Martin

Merlyn Theatre, 21st October, 1994: WORLD PREMIERE

(co-produced with Company B, Belvoir)


Glass Mermaid

Tobsha Learner

Beckett Theatre, 18th November, 1994: WORLD PREMIERE


Guess Who’s Mum’s Got a Willy?

Kevin Harrington

(no date supplied)


Shamanistic Ritual

(no details supplied)



Gary Day

Beckett Theatre, 31st January, 1995: WORLD PREMIERE


Sweet Phoebe

Michael Gow

Beckett Theatre, 24th February, 1995

Original production from Sydney Theatre Company


All Souls

Daniel Keen

Merlyn Theatre, 11th April, 1995


Passion and its Deep Connection to Lemon Delicious Pudding

Suzanne Ingleton

Beckett Theatre, 16th May, 1995: WORLD PREMIERE


Good Works

Nick Enright

Beckett Theatre, 9th June, 1995


The Incorruptible

Louis Nowra

Merlyn Theatre, 11th July, 1995: WORLD PREMIERE


Pacific Union

Alex Buzo

Merlyn Theatre, 15th September, 1995: WORLD PREMIERE


The Head of Mary

Tanaka Chikao

Merlyn Theatre, 26th October, 1995: AUSTRALIAN PREMIERE



Joanna Murray-Smith

Beckett Theatre, 14th November, 1995: WORLD PREMIERE


Emma Celebrazione

Graham Pitts

Merlyn Theatre, 21st February, 1996


The Black Sequin Dress

Jenny Kemp

Merlyn Theatre, 19th March, 1996: WORLD PREMIERE

Co-produced with the Adelaide Festival (World Premiere Performance, March 5th, 1996 at the Scott Theatre, Adelaide)


Gary’s House

Debra Oswald

Beckett Theatre, 2nd April, 1996: WORLD PREMIERE

Co-produced with Q Theatre, Penrith (World Premiere Performance 6th March, 1996, Q Theatre)


Burning Time

Nicholas Flanagan

Merlyn Theatre, 22nd May, 1996: WORLD PREMIERE



Merlyn Theatre, 24th July, 1996: WORLD PREMIERE


Strangers in the Night

Abe Pogos

Beckett Theatre, 6th August, 1996: WORLD PREMIERE


The Mourning After

Verity Laughton

Beckett Theatre, 25th October, 1996: WORLD PREMIERE


Competitive Tenderness

Hannie Rayson

Merlyn Theatre, 20th November, 1996: WORLD PREMIERE


Emma Celebrazione

Graham Pitts

Merlyn Theatre, 1st February, 1997

(return season)


Up the Road

John Harding

Merlyn Theatre, 21st February, 1997


Waking Eve

Robert Hewett

Merlyn Theatre, 4th April, 1997: WORLD PREMIERE


The Conjurers

Alana Valentine

Beckett Theatre, 30th April, 1997: WORLD PREMIERE



Jonathan Hardy

Merlyn Theatre, 30th May, 1997: WORLD PREMIERE


Thieving Boy/ Like Stars In My Hands

Tim Conigrave

Beckett Theatre, 18th July, 1997: WORLD PREMIERE



Joanna Murray-Smith

Beckett Theatre, 19th August, 1997: WORLD PREMIERE


The John Wayne Principle

Merlyn Theatre, 12th September, 1997


Love Suicides

John Romeril

Merlyn Theatre, 7th November, 1997: WORLD PREMIERE


Confidentially Yours

Janis Balodis, Andrew Bovell, Alison Croggon, Debra Oswald, Nick Enright, Michael Gurr, Daniel Keene, Joanna Murray-Smith & Debra Oswald

Beckett Theatre, 11th November, 1998: WORLD PREMIERE


Natural Life

Humphrey Bower

Merlyn Theatre, 25th March, 1998: WORLD PREMIERE

Co-produced with Adelaide Festival (World Premiere performance, 24th February, 1998, Queens Theatre, Adelaide)



Tobsha Learner

Merlyn Theatre, 29th April, 1998: WORLD PREMIERE


Tear from a Glass Eye

Matt Cameron

Beckett Theatre, 27th May, 1998: WORLD PREMIERE


Speaking in Tongues

Andrew Bovell

Beckett Theatre, 21st July, 1998


Rising Fish Prayer

Adam May

Merlyn Theatre, 11th September, 1998: WORLD PREMIERE



Jane Harrison

Beckett Theatre, 21st October, 1998: WORLD PREMIERE

Co-produced with Ilbijerri Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre Co-op, co-presented with Melbourne International Festival of the Arts


The Piccadilly Bushman

Ray Lawler

Merlyn Theatre, 17th November, 1998


Chilling and Killing my Annabel Lee

Aidan Fennessy

Beckett Theatre, 10th February, 1999: WORLD PREMIERE


The Sick Room

Stephen Sewell

Merlyn Theatre, 10th March, 1999: WORLD PREMIERE


Secret Bridesmaids’ Business

Elizabeth Coleman

Merlyn Theatre, 14th April, 1999: WORLD PREMIERE


The Dog’s Play/ A Few Roos Loose in the Top Paddock

Tee O’Neill

Beckett Theatre, 26th May, 1999: WORLD PREMIERE



Nick Enright/ Justin Monjo

Merlyn Theatre, 30th June, 1999


The Language of the Gods

Louis Nowra

Merlyn Theatre, 8th September, 1999: WORLD PREMIERE


A Return to the Brink

Rodney Hall

Merlyn Theatre, 21st October, 1999: WORLD PREMIERE



Joanna Murray-Smith

Beckett Theatre, 16th November, 1999: WORLD PREMIERE

Co-produced with Sydney Theatre Company


Secret Bridesmaids’ Business

Elizabeth Coleman

Merlyn Theatre, date unspecified

Return season


Face to Face

David Williamson

Merlyn Theatre, 1st March, 2000



Jodi Gallagher

Beckett Theatre, 5th April, 2000: WORLD PREMIERE



So Wet

Samantha Bews

Beckett Theatre, 12th April, 2000: WORLD PREMIERE



Like a Metaphor

Gabrielle Macdonald

Beckett Theatre, 12th April, 2000: WORLD PREMIERE



Baby X

Campion Decent

Beckett Theatre, 19th April, 2000: WORLD PREMIERE



Violet Inc.

Pam Leversha

Beckett Theatre, 26th April, 2000: WORLD PREMIERE



The Goldberg Variations

Ron Elisha

Beckett Theatre, 24th May, 2000: WORLD PREMIERE


Crazy Brave

Michael Gurr

Beckett Theatre, 28th June, 2000: WORLD PREMIERE


Sweet Road

Debra Oswald

Merlyn Theatre, 2nd August, 2000

Co-produced with State Theatre, SA


Meat Party

Duong Le Quy

Merlyn Theatre, 19th October, 2000: WORLD PREMIERE


Miss Tanaka

John Romeril

Merlyn Theatre, 16th February, 2001: WORLD PREMIERE

Co-produced with Handspan Visual Theatre


The Sign of the Seahorse – the Concert

Graeme Base

Concert Hall, Victorian Arts Centre. 1st March, 2001: WORLD PREMIERE

Co-produced with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra



Peta Murray

Beckett Theatre, 16th March, 2001: WORLD PREMIERE


I Don’t Wanna Play House

Tammy Anderson

Beckett Theatre, 24th April, 2001


St Kilda Tales

Raimondo Cortese

Merlyn Theatre, 11th May, 2001: WORLD PREMIERE

Co-produced with Ranters Theatre


Your Dreaming

Guy Rundle

ANZ Pavillion, Victorian Arts Centre, 1st May, 2001

Co-produced with the Victorian Arts Centre


Public Dancing / Bang! A Critical Fiction

Peter Webb / Margaret Cameron

Beckett Theatre, 6th June, 2001



Svetlana in Slingbacks

Valentina Levkowicz

Beckett Theatre, 13th  June, 2001



Knowledge and Melancholy/ Seven Days of Silence: WORLD PREMIERE

Margaret Cameron / Angus Cerini

Beckett Theatre, 20th  June, 2001



Ancient Enmity: WORLD PREMIERE

David Hayhow

Beckett Theatre, 27th June, 2001



Insouciance: WORLD PREMIERE/ The Prodigal Son

Barry Dickins / Jack Hibberd

Beckett Theatre, 25th July, 2001


Holy Day

Andrew Bovell

Merlyn Theatre, 15th September, 2001: WORLD PREMIERE

Co-produced with State Theatre, SA (world premiere performance The Playhouse, SA Festival Centre, 17th August, 2001)



Dorothy Hewett

Beckett Theatre, 17th October, 2001: WORLD PREMIERE


This Way Up

Elizabeth Coleman

Merlyn Theatre, 15th October, 2001: WORLD PREMIERE

Script unavailable



John Harding

Beckett Theatre, 5th February, 2002: WORLD PREMIERE

BLAK INSIDE, PROG 1, co-produced with Ilbijerri Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre Co-op.


I Don’t Wanna Play House

Tammy Anderson

Beckett Theatre, 5th February, 2002


BLAK INSIDE, PROG 2, co-produced with Ilbijerri Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre Co-op.



Tracey Rigney

Beckett Theatre, 12th February, 2002: WORLD PREMIERE

BLAK INSIDE, PROG 3, co-produced with Ilbijerri Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre Co-op.


Casting Doubts/ Crowfire

Maryanne Sam/ Jadah Milroy

Beckett Theatre, 19th February, 2002: WORLD PREMIERE

BLAK INSIDE, PROG 4, co-produced with Ilbijerri Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre Co-op.


Conversations with the Dead

Richard Frankland

Carlton Courthouse, La Mama, 13th February, 2002

BLAK INSIDE, PROG 5, co-produced with Ilbijerri Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre Co-op & La Mama



Jane Harrison

Beckett Theatre, 11th March, 2002

Return season


Still Angela

Jenny Kemp

Merlyn Theatre, 6th April, 2002: WORLD PREMIERE


Svetlana in Slingbacks/ Post Felicity: WORLD PREMIERE

Valentina Levkowicz/ Ben Ellis

Beckett Theatre, 23rd April, 2002

(Svetlana in Slingbacks return season)


Milo’s Wake

Margery and Michael Forde

Merlyn Theatre, 8th May, 2002


Half and Half

Daniel Keene

Beckett Theatre, 11th March, 2002: WORLD PREMIERE


The Simple Truth

Michael Gurr

Beckett Theatre, 6th September, 2002: WORLD PREMIERE


The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney

Michael Gow

Merlyn Theatre, 11th October, 2002: WORLD PREMIERE

Co-produced with Queensland Theatre Company (world premiere performance Brisbane Powerhouse, 9th September, 2002)



Joanna Murray-Smith

Merlyn Theatre, 8th November, 2002: WORLD PREMIERE


Your Dreaming

Guy Rundle

Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne, 16th August, 2002



Mavis Goes to Timor

Katherine Thompson, Angela Chaplin and Kavisha Mazzella

Sidney Myer Courtyard, Southbank, 7th February, 2003: WORLD PREMIERE

Co-produced with Deckchair Theatre Company, WA


God’s Last Acre

Vivienne Walshe

Beckett Theatre, 7th March, 2003: WORLD PREMIERE


The Fat Boy

Tony Ayres

Merlyn Theatre, 4th April, 2003: WORLD PREMIERE


Myth, Propaganda and Disaster in Nazi Germany and Contemporary America

Stephen Sewell

Merlyn Theatre, 30th May, 2003: WORLD PREMIERE

Co-produced with State Theatre, SA


Falling Petals

Ben Ellis

Beckett Theatre, 27th June, 2003: WORLD PREMIERE


Ruby Moon

Matt Cameron

Beckett Theatre, 25th July, 2003: WORLD PREMIERE


Yanagai, Yanagai

Andrea James

Merlyn Theatre, 5th September, 2003: WORLD PREMIERE



Cazerine Barry

Beckett Theatre, 10th October, 2003

INSIDE 03: The Technology Project, PROG 1


Mr Phase

Christopher Brown

Beckett Theatre, 10th October, 2003

INSIDE 03: The Technology Project, PROG 2


The Collapsible Man

Gerard Van Dyke

Beckett Theatre, 10th October, 2003

INSIDE 03: The Technology Project, PROG 3


The Ishmael Club

Bill Garner & Sue Gore

Beckett Theatre, 25th February, 2004


Night Letters

Robert Dessaix, Chris Drummond, Susan Rogers

Merlyn Theatre, 1st April, 2004: WORLD PREMIERE

Co-produced with State Theatre, SA (world premiere performance, Queens Theatre, Adelaide, 24th February, 2004)


The Frail Man

Anthony Crowley

Merlyn Theatre, 23rd April, 2004: WORLD PREMIERE



Ian Wilding

Beckett Theatre, 27th May, 2004: WORLD PREMIERE

Co-produced with Griffin Theatre Company & Black Sawn Theatre Company (world premiere performance Stables Theatre, Darlinghurst, NSW, 29th April, 2004)


Minefields and Miniskirts

Siobhan McHugh, Adapted by Terence O’Connell

Merlyn Theatre, 14th July, 2004: WORLD PREMIERE


Julia 3

Michael Gurr

Beckett Theatre, 3rd September, 2004: WORLD PREMIERE


The Call

Martin Flanagan, Bruce Myles

Beckett Theatre, 14th October, 2004: WORLD PREMIERE

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