Melissa Reeves has been awarded the 2016 Griffin Award for new Australian writing for her play The Zen of Table Tennis.
The Griffin Award, a national competition, recognises an “outstanding play or performance text that displays an authentic, inventive, and contemporary Australian voice.” The prize is $10,000.
Reeves was announced the winner at the SBW Stables Theatre last week, where excerpts of the five shortlisted plays were read by actors Wadih Dona, Sophie Hensser, Lucia Mastrantone, Charles Wu and Elan Zavelsky.
The other shortlisted plays were Savage by Jane Bodie; Body Farm by Michael Collins; promiscuous/cities by Lachlan Philpott; and The Age of Bones (Jaman Belulang) by Sandra Thibodeaux.
Reeves’ plays have seen at Melbourne Theatre Company, Malthouse Theatre, Back to Back Theatre, and Melbourne Workers Theatre. They include Furious Mattress, The Spook, Sweetown, Road Movie, and Salt Creek Murders.
She has also co-written a number of works including Who’s Afraid of the Working Class, and its film adaptation Blessed, with Andrew Bovell, Patricia Cornelius, and Christos Tsiolkas.
The Zen of Table Tennis explores the impact of both real and imagined war. The play centres around two characters – a soldier who has returned from Afghanistan and a 13-year- old boy who has been playing violent video games. Both suffer from the horrors of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“I became interested in society’s misconception around the realties of war. And how popular culture amplifies our false awarenessthrough movies, and in particular, video games,” Reeves said.
“I hit upon the idea of a young boy who experiences the horrors of PTSD through playing war games.”
Previous winners of the Griffin Award include Lachlan Philpott, Debra Oswald, Mary Rachel Brown and Brendan Cowell. Last year’s winning play, Stephen Carleton’s The Turquoise Elephant, will be directed by Gale Edwards as part of Griffin’s 2016 Season later this year. Angus Cerini’s The Bleeding Tree, which took out the Award in 2014, was recently awarded a NSW Premier’s Literary Award and last week received a Helpmann nomination for Best Play.