To prepare for the second year of this theatrical journey by degrees from Melbourne’s most celebrated writers’ theatre, 6 writers went down to Flinders Lane. Amidst the cobblestones, cafes, brass plates and bicycles, 6 stories emerged yet only 2 characters were created. Tally and Beaux, played by 8 actors. Just to keep audiences guessing.

Six Degrees in Melbourne opens at La Mama Courthouse on 13th November, and if you didn’t see Six Degrees last year, prepare to be treated to something rather special – an exciting departure from the regular theatrical fare. Described by one critic as ‘nuggets of gold in a bleak modern city’ last year, this year’s Six Degrees in Melbourne consists of six short plays that weave in and around each other while dipping into the darkness and surprises of our treasured Flinders Lane. Yes, this is a themed show.

Clare Mendes, who created Six Degrees in Melbourne and is the tour-de-force behind Melbourne Writers’ Theatre’s signature show The Melbourne Monologues and their successful Fringe 2018 production Stark. Dark. Albert Park, is full of praise for the diverse playwrights who constitute MWT, which since 1982 has been putting this city’s best new writers and actors on the path to success. ‘Our writers have the talent and drive to write a script to a theme,’ she says. ‘And importantly, they can write to a deadline. They’re highly focussed and quite entrepreneurial. You give them a brief and they’ll say, “Sure, I’ll have a go at that.” Next thing you know, you’ve got 40 terrific new plays sitting on your desktop. After that, it’s out of my hands.’

Mendes is referring to the anonymous script selection process that MWT put in place back in 2014, which now guarantees that all scripts submitted for shows like Six Degrees in Melbourne are selected entirely on their merits rather than for any kudos associated with the writer. This is how the best writing in theatre will always be chosen, and it’s how two of the six scripts in Six Degrees in Melbourne have been penned by the two directors – Mazz Ryan and Adéle Shelley. ‘I’d been contracted to co-direct, and then I received a call to say that my script had been chosen,’ says Shelley. ‘I offered to pull out as a writer, but Clare (Mendes) said, ‘No, you can be both. This is MWT.”’

November 13 – 25