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2017 Silver Gull Award Winner Announced

We’re very pleased to announce the winner of the 2017 Silver Gull Play Award

Zoe Cooper, for her play For Unknown Reasons

Congratulations to Zoe, and to all the shortlisted writers!

Alison Rooke, Zoe Hogan, Zoe Cooper and Katie Pollock


We’d like to thank Helen Tonkin, who directed the excerpts of the readings on the night, and actors Tsu Shan Chambers, Tim de Sousa, Barry French, Isaro Kayitesi, Chantelle Jamieson and Peter Maple.
And thank you to Kerri Glasscock and the Old 505,
and to our very generous sponsor, The Buzz From Sydney.

It’s a joy to be part of such a vibrant theatre scene!

More information about the award and subtlenuance can be found at


Reading for the 2017 Silver Gull Play Award

I recently read the 30 plays entered for the 2017 Silver Gull Play Award, and this is what I’ve learnt:

We’re interested in…….

Local playwrights are interested in a huge range of political and philosophical ideas. We’re probing attitudes to identity, personhood and mortality. We’re passionately interested in equality and all that prevents its full realization. We’re writing plays about international relations and domestic violence, about the nature of art and the dangers of consumerism, about LGBTIQ rights and the experience of refugees. We are wide in our scope and bold in our vision.

We’re driven by compassion

We’re passionate about the experience of the marginalized, and though we imagine solutions, we’re willing to represent the injustices as they exist and acknowledge our own complicity.

We’re haunted by violence

A large number of plays dealt with violence. We’re interested in its causes and its effects. But we’re also interested in our interest in it; we’re desperately seeking to fathom our fascination with the brutal and the inhumane.

We speak to the dying

We’re interested in mortality: that ever fresh shock that despite our complacency, things will not continue as they have. We’re interested in physical and mental health, both how they affect the individuals who suffer and those who care for them.


“A beautiful book” by Károly Ferenczy


We’re experimenting

We’re writing wonderful plays in all genres. We’re setting plays both locally and overseas – and in the past, the present and the future.  We’re writing brilliant naturalism, but we’re also pushing against conventions. We’re playing with narrative form. We’re throwing down the gauntlet to directors and challenging them to stage the seemingly unstageable. This is exciting, as I believe the form must perpetually refresh itself, freeing itself from any slavish need to represent only what is to the exclusion of what might be.

Women are writing more plays

An obvious simplification – but in the first two years of the award only about a quarter of all entrants were female. This year it’s about half. It’s also worth noting that in each shortlist over the past three years there has been a majority of female writers.

We could be more prolific

Though the award is in its third year, there have been only a handful of writers who’ve entered more than once. I appreciate there may be many reasons for this (one, of course, might be an understandable response to rejection. My advice: don’t take competitions too seriously. Just take the money if you win.)

We encourage writers to write. Don’t sit on a play for five years. Don’t listen to those voices, both external and internal, telling you it’s not ready. The cultural cringe is alive and strong. Just look at the number of foreign plays programmed. Just look at the number of plays performed in accents other than the actors’ own. In this atmosphere, we must learn to back ourselves. Development and dramaturgy help, but they can’t replace confidence and exuberance. Don’t ask ‘Is my play good enough?’ Ask ‘Does it share what I so passionately want to share?’ I’m not suggesting there’s no effort involved. The effort is very real. It comes in learning the craft, but it also comes in the searing honesty needed to ask yourself ‘Is what I’m saying worth saying?’ Seek the truth within you, not the approval without.

It’s been a privilege

I’ve told this story before, but a few years back, at a literary award night, the artistic director of a mainstream company said that reading the submitted plays had been a “thankless task”. My experience couldn’t have been more different. (Sure, it is ‘thankless’ in that I don’t get paid, and – very occasionally – I do get the vibe of ‘who are you to judge my play?’ from a writer, one who’s entered their play in a competition.)

But it has been an extraordinary privilege to read the plays submitted. I know what it is to write a play and to offer it. The writing takes effort, concentration and large amounts of time. The offering takes a type of courage. But most of all it takes a generosity of spirit. With every play we write we say “This is how I see the world, both what has been and what could be. And this I want to share.”

I would like to thank our generous sponsor, The Buzz From Sydney, our five judges who read the shortlist, and all the playwrights. It is an honour to be part of such a vibrant theatre scene.

Paul Gilchrist


The winner of 2017 Silver Gull Play Award will be announced on August 28th.

The shortlisted plays can be found here

2017 Silver Gull Play Award Shortlist

The Silver Gull Play Award recognizes an outstanding play by a local writer that explores philosophical or political themes.

The award is sponsored by The Buzz From Sydney

It is administered by subtlenuance

The award is valued at $2000.

This year we received many inspiring plays that offered insight and encouraged action.

We’re proud to announce the shortlist:

The Bees Are All Dead by Kit Brookman
Dead Wen by Elias Jamieson Brown
For unknown reasons by Zoe Cooper
A Spy in the House of Love by Zoe Hogan
Human Activity by Katie Pollock
The Blackbird and the Whale by Alison Rooke

The winner will be announced on 28 August.


Photo Attribution:
By Glen Fergus (Own work, Moreton Bay, Australia) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (, via Wikimedia Commons

While we’re away


After 8 years and over 20 original productions, we announced late last year that we were closing shop for a while.

But though we’re not currently producing theatre, we still have a couple of pots on the boil.

Thanks to our generous sponsor, The Buzz From Sydney, we’re still administering The Silver Gull Play Award. The shortlist for the 2017 award will be announced mid-August.

Our outreach arm, blatant nuisance, is also operating our Raw Treats program. More about this opportunity for playwrights can be found here

kitten eating



2017 Silver Gull Play Award

subtlenuance is proud to announce that entries are now open for the 2017 Silver Gull Play Award.
This award will recognise an outstanding play by a local writer that explores philosophical or political themes.

The award is sponsored by The Buzz From Sydney
It will be administered by subtlenuance

The aim of The Silver Gull Play Award is to encourage interest in theatre that both offers insight and encourages action.

In 2017 the award will be valued at $2,000.

Philosophical? Political?

Both these words resist simple definition – which is part of what makes them so ripe for theatrical treatment.
It’s impossible for us to tell you exactly what we want.
We want to be surprised.
To be shown new worlds.
But we’ll offer this as a starting point:
A philosophical play invites us to consider how (our) thoughts make the world.
A political play invites us to consider how (our) actions make the world.
Neither assume the world is unchangeable.

Previous winners of the Silver Gull Play Award

2015 Tick Tick Boom by Melissa Lee Speyer
2016 People Will Think You Don’t Love Me by Joanna Erskine


To be eligible for The Silver Gull Play Award, plays:
a) Must explore themes that are political and/or philosophical. (Please see the earlier note)
b) Must be at least 60 minutes in length.
c) Must be unpublished and unproduced.
d) Must be unencumbered by agreements for future production or publication.
e) Must be the original work of the playwright.
f) Must be written by a playwright who resides in NSW.
g) Must be written by a playwright over the age of 18 years as of April 30, 2017.
h) Must not have won, or been shortlisted for, another Australian playwriting competition as of time of entry.
i) Must not be a re-writing of a work from one format to another (e.g. a radio play adapted as stage play).

In sending us your play you assure us that you have read the eligibility criteria for The Silver Gull Play Award. You declare your eligibility under the criteria listed. You guarantee you are the sole copyright holder of all material used.

Entry terms and conditions:
a) Playwrights may submit only one play for consideration. They may not submit a play previously submitted to this award.
b) The decision of the judging panel is final and no correspondence will be entered into. The judges reserve the right to decide any questions of eligibility, to publish a shortlist and not to make an Award,
c) The winner of the Award will be announced in August 2017.
d) subtlenuance does not commit to programming or producing the winning play. The playwright retains the rights to their play.
e) The 2017 Award will be valued at $2,000.
f) The work must be submitted electronically via email.

Your entry should do the following: (Entries that do not fulfill these requirements will be deemed ineligible)
1. Include the following personal information in the body of your email: Name, Residential address, Phone number, Play Title, and Number of pages in the script.
2. Attach to your email an electronic copy of the script as a pdf. Please label the pdf file with the title of your play. Do not include your name anywhere on the script. Please number the pages.
3. Attach to your email a detailed synopsis (of approximately 350 words) as a pdf. Please ensure the title of your play is at the top of this page (and not your name). Please label this file with “title of your play_synopsis”. In the synopsis you must include a section which outlines why you believe your play fulfils the requirements of being an exploration of philosophical and/or political themes.

Please do not print your name anywhere on the script or synopsis. Entries are judged anonymously and your name should appear only in the body of your email.

Email your entry to by midnight April 30, 2017.
Queries should be directed to the above address.

Timetable of dates for The 2017 Silver Gull Play Award
22 November 2016 entries open
30 April 2017 entries close
July 2017 shortlist announced
August 2017 winner announced


2016 Silver Gull Play Award Shortlist

The Silver Gull Play Award recognizes an outstanding play by a local writer that explores philosophical or political themes.

The award is sponsored by  The Buzz From Sydney

It is administered by subtlenuance

The award is valued at $2000.

This year we received many exciting entries; inspiring plays that offered insight and encouraged action.


We’re proud to announce the shortlist:

People Will Think You Don’t Love Me by Joanna Erskine

A matter of life and death by John AD Fraser

The Ink Trail by Louis Klee

This, This Is Mine by Duncan Ragg

I sat and waited but you were gone too long by Olivia Satchell

The winner will be announced on 22 August.


The 2015 Silver Gull Play Award Shortlist

We are very excited to announce the shortlisted plays for the inaugural Silver Gull Play Award.

The award recognises an outstanding play by a local writer that explores philosophical or political themes.

The award is sponsored by The Buzz From Sydney


The shortlisted plays for 2015 are:

Between the Streetlight and the Moon by Melita Rowston

Furthest West by Michael Collins

The Block Universe (Or So It Goes) by Sam O’Sullivan

The Last Executioner by Mark Swivel

TickTickBoom by Melissa Lee Speyer

In 2015 the award is valued at $2,000.

The winner will be announced on July 9.

Writer’s bios

Melita Rowston

Writer/director/performer. A graduate of VCA (Painting), NIDA (Directing) and UTS (Creative Writing), Melita’s plays include Bread & Butter (ASYLUM) ’15, Canyonlands (subtlenuance) ‘14, The Crash (MayDay Festival) ’13, Crushed, (New Theatre) ’12, The Diver (S&S prize winner) ’08, Sugarbomb, (TRS) ’04, Solitude in Blue, (Griffin) ’02, Swing Girl, (Griffin) ’01, Night Reflections, (NIDA), ‘00. Melita was a resident playwright at Griffin Theatre Company in 2005/06 and shortlisted for The Griffin Award in 2007. Melita’s performances include: Six Degrees of Ned Kelly, (Sydney & Melbourne Fringe) ’15, Hey! Yeah! It’s Molly’s Travelling Worm Show! (Malthouse Theatre) ’13.

Michael Collins

Michael is from Perth and moved to Sydney last year to complete an MFA in Writing for Performance at NIDA. Writing of Michael’s has been featured in Voiceworks (most recent issue #100), dotdotdash, sitelines and vibewire, and has won things from the Fellowship of Australian Writer’s (Vic) and His Majesty’s Theatre Trust. He has had plays produced independently in Western Australia, Adelaide, Sydney, and, through a bit of luck, the Philippines.

Sam O’Sullivan

Since graduating NIDA, Sam has worked extensively as an actor in both independent and professional theatre with the likes of Toby Schmitz, Anthony Skuse, Jane Bodie, Belvoir St. Theatre, MopHead Productions, ATYP, pantsguys, The Rock Surfers, Griffin Independent, The Darlinghurst Theatre Company and the Just for Laughs Comedy Gala. In 2012, he was nominated for a Sydney Theatre Award for Best Actor in an Independent Production for his performance in Punk Rock.  As a writer, Sam’s credits include the short plays Gods and Zombies, which appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe and Simpleton, which was turned into a film and presented at the Cannes Short Film Corner. The Block Universe (Or So It Goes) is his first full-length play.

Mark Swivel

Mark is a writer and lawyer. His last work Water Falling Down premiered at Queensland Theatre Company in Brisbane in 2011 and played at B Street Theatre in the USA in 2012. His first play Struth went on at Griffin Theatre Company in 1990. Mark also performs occasionally. He took Jeremy Boutsakis Thought Leader to the Edinburgh Festival in 2007 and has a new show How Deep Is Your Love? currently doing the rounds. Back in the 90s Mark did plays and shows at the Stables and Belvoir Street after doing the NIDA Playwrights Studio.

Melissa Lee Speyer

Melissa completed NIDA’s playwriting degree in 2011. Writing credits: Decay and Machine, both devised with Eclective Productions (Old 505 Theatre); project 84 devised with Epiphany Now with support from PWA Lab; and And Now To Bed for subtlenuance (Kings Cross Hotel). In 2015 she is a Rock Surfers Associate Artist.

For more information about subtlenuance

Photo credit : Glen Fergus via Wikimedia Commons