We’re thrilled to announce that the winner of The Silver Gull Play Award for 2023 is ALASTAIR BROWN for his play NEXT TO GODLINESS.

The Silver Gull Play Award is a competition open to NSW-based writers over the age of 18 for an unpublished and unproduced original play of 60 minutes or more duration that speaks to New Theatre’s ethos of ‘Plays With a Purpose’.

This year, nearly 50 plays were entered, displaying a wide variety of subject matter, and the judges praised the quality and originality of the writing. Five plays which the judges considered outstanding were shortlisted: Next to Godliness by Alastair Brown, Chicken in a Biscuit by Mary Rachel Brown and Jamie Oxenbould, Burning by Christopher Bryant, The Mews by Joanna Erskine and The Dragonfly by Simon  Thomson. 

On Monday 23 October, in front of an enthusiastic audience, excerpts from the five shortlisted plays were presented by actors Kate Bookallil, Alison Chambers, Lumka Coleman, Barry French, Wern Mak and Joseph Tanti, under the direction of Tiffany Wong.

Alastair received a prize of $5000 and the other shortlisted writers received $500 each, thanks to the generous sponsorship of Joy Minter, who has supported The Silver Gull Play Award since its inception in 2015. 

Next to Godliness by Alastair Brown is the story of three women at various stages of life, all attempting to survive and thrive within the male-dominated industry of professional murder.

Carmen is a young woman with a sharp intellect and a complete lack of focus. Sophia is a highly-strung older woman possessed of an almost ruthless practicality, returning to the workforce after her husband is incapacitated by a stroke.

The two women work as cleaners for a criminal syndicate, disposing of bodies and forensic evidence. When they attend a particularly blood-soaked crime scene and find one of the participants still clinging to life, they find themselves in a difficult position. Disposing of all the evidence technically includes this man, who they decide to refer to as Goon Number Seven, but they are both unwilling to finish him off themselves.

Luckily they live in the era of outsourcing and decide to call in a professional.

Ferryman is a killer by trade, with a tendency towards speaking in business jargon and corporate slogans. We meet her in the middle of coaching her latest mark into writing his own suicide note, but she is willing to wrap that job up quickly in order to answer the urgent call she receives from Sophia.

Throughout the play the protagonists are unknowingly haunted by the unquiet dead, three creatures who manifest in the bodies of the crime scene victims and form a Chorus of sorts. These three entities delight in the increasing conflict, and provide grim context to each scene by likening them to stories from Greek myth.

Scene three finds Carmen alone with Goon Number Seven, waiting for Sophia to return from ordering in an assassin.

This refreshingly original play about the empowerment of women is a social satire clothed in grotesque farce and woven into the bloodiness of Greek myth and tragedy. It turns worn aphorisms and cliches upside down and has moments of illuminating truth. So often we look back to the Greeks for insight into the tragedies of passionate violence. Or now to the Irish for the dark comedy of violence. This play brings both together with the blackest of humour.

Alastair spent four years studying acting at Flinders University Drama Centre before deciding, the moment that he graduated, that he’d rather be a writer instead. Since then he has written novels, stage plays, screenplays, reviews, and even a couple of songs. His short story Remembrance In Skin recently appeared in issue 150 of Aurealis magazine, he won a Best Writing award for his short play Flat in the Melbourne Short + Sweet play festival, and his comic book reviews appear on the YouTube channel Kapow! (which he also co-hosted for several years). Alastair lives in Sydney, New South Wales with his wife, and several cats who have started to demand he include them in everything he writes.

Previous winners and finalists of The Silver Gull Play Award:

Next To Godliness by Alastair Brown – winner
Chicken In A Biscuit by Mary Rachel Brown and Jamie Oxenbould
Burning by Christopher Bryant
The Mews by Joanna Erskine
The Dragonfly by Simon Thomson

Inside Out by Christopher Bryant
Fighting by Xavier Coy – winner
God in Space by Jeanette Cronin
Miriam by James Elazzi

Off The Record by Chris Aronsten
Sanctuary by Margaret Davis
Cloudsurfing by John AD Fraser
The Scammer by Wendy Lewis
Fitson and Dan by Mark O’Flynn
The Other End of The Afternoon by Bokkie Robertson – winner

Victim by Jeanette Cronin
God’s Gruesome Shadow on The Wall by Kian Farzam
The Scream by Justin Fleming
Gods and Little Fishes by Jamie Oxenbould and Richard Sydenham – winner
The Park by Simon Thomson

I Damo by Pauline Bleach
The Deal by Kel Vance
Breathless by Deborah Mulhall
Son of Byblos by James Elazzi
Field of Vision by Joanna Erskine – winner

Disinhibition by Christopher Bryant
Alabaster Burning by John AD Fraser
People Inside Me by Katie Pollock
Superheroes by Mark Rogers
Lions and Tigers and Bears by Phillip James Rouse – winner

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

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

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 – winner


Original artwork © Michael Tonkin