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Screen Shot 2018 11 14 at 3.11.07 pmPlaylab is welcoming Maxine Mellor as our 2018 - 2019 Playwright-in-Residence. Through the process, including rigorous dramaturgy, two development workshops and a trip out west, Max is developing Horizon - a new work set to join our growing collection of Playlab Productions. We'll be updating you with info on the project as the program unfolds, but for now, here's a taste of what's to come:

Horizon by Maxine Mellor

Cole and Sky, are a young couple hitting the highway. Heading out to the gaping open-cut mines of Cole’s late father, they’re filled with unbridled enthusiasm for the journey ahead. The boundless plains stretch ahead inspiring conspiratorial romantic dreaming and poetic ruminations.

As they leave behind familiar territory, heatwaves warp the looming horizon and the air becomes sinister. A long-forgotten mix tape buried deep in the glovebox underscores the journey, but out of the static following the final song comes the recorded voice of a pubescent Cole – spitting fury and angst. Sky scratches deeper, searching for traces of anger and violence that might still linger, while Cole tallies roadkill and feels every bump in the bitumen. The horizon beckons, yet their chance of making it to their destination intact is reducing each dusty kilometre.

Horizon is a high-octane adrenaline rush of sweat, grit and dangerous ambition set in a classic car tearing its way from Queensland’s east coast to the guts of the country.

More on Max:

Maxine Mellor is an award-winning playwright of over twenty works. Awards include the Queensland Theatre’s Young Playwright’s Award (2001, 2002, 2003); the QTC George Landen Dann Award (2004); and a Matilda Award for best new independent work for Performance (2005) for Magda’s Fascination with Wax Cats. In 2012 she won Inscription’s Edward Albee New York City Residency Scholarship, and the 2012/2013 Queensland Premier’s Drama Award. Maxine won the Max Afford Playwriting Award for 2014 for The Silver Alps, and in 2017, and received the Lord Mayor's Young & Emerging Artists Fellowship to undertake professional development through Singapore, Iceland and the UK.

Maxine’s work has been showcased at the National Play Festival twice and throughout the USA as part of Inscription’s Playwriting and Screenwriting tour (2014). Recent productions include La Boite’s national tour of Maxine’s stage adaption of The Wind in the Willows, Trollop at Queensland Theatre, The Wizard of Oz (in collaboration with The Danger Ensemble, Brisbane Festival and La Boite), and Anna Robi & The House of Dogs (Brisbane Festival’s Under the Radar). Her plays have been produced throughout Australia, and are published with Playlab and Australian Plays.

Maxine also regularly teaches and mentors emerging writers throughout schools and universities, including recently facilitating Playwriting Australia’s Lotus program for Asian Australian playwrights. She is a qualified drama and visual art teacher and often works with gifted and talented students delivering workshops in various creative fields. 

For more information visit

As it currently stands,
Playlab can only support one playwright a year through this program. It is our intention to expand this initiative to more playwrights per year, but we need support to do this. If you are in a position to be able to help, please donate here.

Playwright In Residence Diary Banner

Playwright Diary 1, Maxine Mellor Horizon:
Things that have been inspiring me: synthwave soundtracks, the Lindy Chamberlain case, ‘incels’, mining magnates, and road trip movies.

It seems a broad and unrelated smattering of sources, but this wide-net casting and weaving process of research is all part of the conceptualising phase of playwriting that I love. You can go down unending internet rabbit holes and midnight wanderings of the web and call it work. Of course, it’s made a little more purposeful by knowing at least the premise of the play you’re writing. For Horizon, it was basically this:

A couple in a car heading out west whose personal problems are political.

The car was a conceptual present from Ian Lawson [who’s been a crucial driver and passenger to share the ride with], and it immediately gave a set piece to play and grapple with. Rather than it being a stationary metal blob replete with faux horn-beeping and car-crash acting, this vehicle will come alive as a spinning, illuminated, breathing organism barely able to contain the bodies inside it as they dance, slide, and climb out and over it. There’s talk of multiple projectors and screens filling the space with video and animation of the real and symbolic, and soundtracks are being born (at least in our heads) of the howls of highway ghosts haunting and chasing this car towards a terrifying resolution. Suddenly, a two-hander feels much larger than a two-hander.

While we await the new year when we’ll spend an extended period working alongside the video, lighting and sound artists, being able to envisage these textural layers at this point in the process has really expanded the scope of Horizon. Dialogue doesn’t have to do all the work! As the characters’ internal worlds have been shaped, we’ve been discussing what those worlds physically look and sound like. As we’ve burdened these poor characters with personal issues, we’ve been noticing how reflective they are of the complex issues we face as a nation: how men and women are raised and behave, dark histories, environment vs industry, and ambition and progress.

So far, with regular check-ins and chats about what we’re doing (with our lives and the play) we’ve arrived at a beat sheet of scenes and micro-moments that grows daily and will serve as the starting point to the writing of the play. Research and refinement continues, and we look forward to Draft 1.0, the creative development, and the road trip out west (when it’s nowhere near this hot!).

While we have some idea of the things that are chasing these characters, we still haven’t decided what exactly is over the horizon.

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