A new Malthouse Theatre initiative supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund, the Playwriting Innovation Award is designed to provoke conversations about the future of playwriting in Australia, and acknowledge the innovative contributions made by local playwrights to the growth of the artform.

Rachel Perks was today announced as the inaugural winner and they receive a cash prize and full play commission to the total of $20,000, plus a creative development workshop and the support of Malthouse Theatre’s team to develop the work.

Rachel’s winning entry, An Exhaustive Treatise on Queer Desire will blend sci-fi, western, and rom-com genres, seizing on popular forms and tropes, and inverting them.

About the new initiative, Malthouse Theatre’s Artistic Director, Matthew Lutton said: ‘Our artform thrives on transformation, and theatre-makers are continually innovating in large and small ways. Now feels like the time for new conversations, and we were keen to talk in real terms about how theatre might evolve in the next decade.

This award is about opening that conversation up to the community.

The Award invited playwrights to consider what innovation means to them in the context of their practice—be it in audience development, content, form, process or collaboration. 78 national submissions were assessed by a panel of five members of Malthouse Theatre’s artistic team – Bridget Balodis, Kamarra Bell-Wykes, Ra Chapman, Matthew Lutton, and Mark Pritchard.

On receiving the Award, Rachel said: ‘An Exhaustive Treatise on Queer Desire will take my ongoing investigations into dramaturgy and form a step further. I write and think obsessively about queered, digitised, cyborgian climate futures; the end of the world as we know it, and the beginning of the next.

This new work will move further away from traditional structural ideas of theatre, challenging expected outcomes, and easy solutions to complex problems.

Mark Pritchard, Malthouse Theatre’s New Work Manager said: ‘Rachel’s work is truly compelling. They’ve developed a strong methodology behind how they make work, speaking back to convention, and offering new ways of seeing. We’re excited to now get to go on the journey with Rachel as they write this ambitious new play, and continue the conversation about the future of theatre.

Rachel’s prior works include MORAL PANIC, GROUND CONTROL, and Angry Sexx. Their works have been nominated for nine Green Room Awards and Rachel was a recipient of the Melbourne Festival Discovery Award, Art Start, and the Dame Joan Sutherland Award. Rachel’s script Hydra (previously End of Life) was selected for the MTC Cybec readings and shortlisted for The Queensland Premier’s Drama Award in 2019.

An Exhaustive Treatise on Queer Desire has now been commissioned, with a creative development expected in 2022.