Australian Theatre Forum 2015 Recap


MKA Creative Directors John Kachoyan & Tobias Manderson-Galvin, Associate Artist Kat Henry and Business Manager Corey Reynolds were all in attendance throughout ATF 2015. They were busy not “buying or selling theatre work” (explicitly banned from the event) but instead having “caffeine” with people, presumably to “share the passions that drive their practices”.

Cos they were too busy with the nuts and bolts of ‘making it’, MKA presents:

MKA Writing Secondment 2015 David Unwin

(who didn’t attend, and we’re pretty sure had never heard of ATF before today)

Look, straight off the bat reader, I have no idea of what happened at the 2015 ATF. I didn’t go. But I know people, and know of other people who did. And I myself  once attended a meeting at the office of esteemed University of Melbourne Theatre Studies Academic, Professor Denise Varney. It wasn’t a forum but there was this weird moment when the meeting turned from a normal meeting into this kind of board of directors firing me from University. I’m pretty sure that’s what they were trying to do but I’ve never been fired – and I quit anyway. Suckers.

The meeting involved three of them (academics) sitting around this tiny table with a jug of water with a slice of lemon floating in it. There were only three glasses so I had to do without the opportunity to take sips of water coordinated to emphasise key points. They started taking notes while asking me if I’d read clause 6.3 and something about mise en place. I didn’t know much about either of these things which for some reason prompted Professor Varney to assert that “Theatre Studies is a real discipline” – evidenced by the fact that she had just returned from a (real) conference attended by over 900 (real) people.

Delving further into my ontological (did I use that word correctly?) understanding of her discipline, Professor Varney asked if I thought Theatre (Studies) was “just a bunch of people getting together to talk about theatre?” Her tone and body language implied that the answer was no but that I’d been acting as though the answer was yes. Scribe, Dr David McInnis, seated behind her, assuming I might be an idiot, generously shook his head to indicate the best answer to give was ‘no’. I decided to open up the discussion andsaid yes.  After the meeting I received an email documenting my admission that I was not “prioritising my studies”.  I didn’t reply.

Whether or not this anecdote has anything or everything to do with the ATF depends on what exactly did and didn’t happen over the 4? days.  To get a better understanding of  went on behind the giant glass doors of the Seymour Centre I spoke to some  industry insiders who did attend this year’s forum.

  • “Nothing. I wagged most of the sessions to go drinking with more important people.” I hope government funding picked up the tab.
  • “The one before this one, back in 2013 in Canberra, there was lots of yelling and crying. Plus I made out with a girl – hell I nearly had sex in the middle of a nightclub – but the security guard came over and I lost my cool. This time there seems to be less of that.” This confirms  Liz from La Mama’s assertion that this year was “less volatile… more mature.”  But is also very disappointing.
  • “It’s like those things in school where like you go and attend with ‘leaders’ from other schools”. Ok, thank you. I know what it is. I went to a state school which didn’t have a blazer as part of its uniform, but kept a stash of five or six especially for this kind of event. This ensured we all looked respectable despite our low socioeconomic status.


  • “A famous Belgian festival director said that – actually I don’t remember if… Anyway, she was foreign. She said that there’s this tendency in Australia, and in fact the West in general, for us to program ‘international’ arts festivals that really are Western Arts festivals, and also, when we do program things of the Orient – and I use that term ironically,  it’s done with a kind of exoticist feticism. Like whenever there’s a war somewhere we love to see pictures of some poor women sitting on steps looking grim in black and white.  The point is that this art is always for Western consumption.  Like no one in Afghanistan has ever seen that photo of the green-eyed girl on the cover of National Geographic. I mean that was a colour photograph, but she did have such beautiful eyes. Meanwhile I still like war art. Balances out my United Color of Benetton spending sprees.” This reminds me that I haven’t had a letter from my sponsor child in quite some time.
  • “I fell asleep in a Sydney Festival show. So did all three people I was with. And we were all so tired but also so socially anxious that we all pretended we weren’t sleeping to the other three. Everyone  kept doing that jerking awake thing.” Um ok.

I also learned It costs money to go to the ATF. Ninety-nine bucks for independents, $250 for members of smaller companies and the price increases for the larger ones.  I’m told that the catering was fine but run with the sort of strict bureaucrazy usually associated with Centrelink or immigration offices. Interestingly, it was neither the money or the catering which kept me away from this year’s forum.  I just didn’t, as was said earlier, know this thing existed. Obviously other people did. Looking at the delegate list, and from reports from other attendees, it seems the people in the know were mostly made up of government funded companies, orgs and peak bodies, the government departments themselves, plus a bunch of independent artists who are either gunning to be part of that elite, are still stuck flying solo, and/or are particularly worthy. Meanwhile, there’s little perhaps even no presence from the outright commercial interests eg. Mariners Theatres. No one producing the next juke box musical was in attendance. This is not to say companies like the MTC (The Speechmaker) don’t make commercial decisions and privilege them over artistic ones, actually it seems weird that that fact would be brushed over. By me. So I didn’t.

So there you have it. The understandings and misunderstandings of #ATF2015 from someone who didn’t go and (despite now knowing of its existence) probably never will.  Meanwhile, thanks to the cultural amnesia so typical of Australians I’ll probably just hand in this same article in two years’ time after the 2016 ATF. And while this article doesn’t answer the probing question raised by Professor Varney on the nature of theatre (studies) in Australia, it certainly makes for interesting discussion.

David Unwin – MKA


Response from Jana Perkovic; apropos her article from


apropos a mistake in the following article from 

I have recently written an essay that has attracted a lot of attention due to its subject matter and, more urgently, for containing a quote from an unpublished script. I did not take sufficient care during the editing process of this long article, and the published essay contained an unauthorised quote from an unpublished script, winner of an RE Ross Trust Playwrights’ Script Development Award, has been part of National Script Workshop, but had been sent to me, in good faith, for appraisal.

As soon as I was alerted, I immediately contacted and requested its prompt removal. I wrote directly to the playwright with an unreserved apology. Not much later, the editor of, Tom Healey, penned a public apology for his editorial oversight which I fully share. The essay got very quickly redacted, but harm has been caused, and an apology and an explanation are in order.

In February 2014, when Tom Healey asked me to write an essay on Australian playwriting for, I proposed something that had been on my mind quite a lot: an analysis of some common dramaturgical patterns I had in Australian dramatic writing and at work in the wider Australian storytelling culture.

Some of the discussion around the essay suggested a fundamental malice in the use of the quote, and the essay itself. I get to read many plays, long and short, ready for stage and deeply flawed. Many celebrated plays feature instances of untheatrical dialogue, short scenes, poetic language instead of conflict etc.

I’m aware that it seemed my voice has been missing from the public discussion. I want to give my assurance that there was no malice in writing these opinions and I believe that we owe as much support and clarity to our theatre as we can possibly give.

I am extremely sorry that this has happened, and have done all possible to rectify the mistake, and MKA, as a new writing company,  and I, are working on a public literary policy to clarify our reading and reporting process. I thought it was important that those engaged in the industry, but not aware of the private communications, hear from me on this matter.

I’m very happy to continue this conversation. See you at MKA’s HYPRTXT Festival of New Writing & Performance!

Jana Perkovic

MKA: Theatre of New Writing
Literary Manager

New Leadership! Major Changes!


Revealing New Leadership & Expanded Company!

In 2013-2014 MKA will farewell co-founder Glyn Roberts and welcome new Co-Creative Director John Kachoyan and a raft of arts leaders in an exciting new vision for the company.

Read more below!
All about the team! All about the future! and Glyn’s farewell message!

Oh hello MKA audience and artists!In 2013-14,MKA are growing.
We’re continuing to grow across Australia, and internationally, with works planned from Northcote to New York, from Melbourne to Mexico City. But today we want to tell you about the growth of the company.

Following the recent departure of co-founder and co-creative director, Glyn Roberts, to La Boite Theatre in Brisbane, (CONGRATULATIONS GLYN and LA BOITE!!) Creative Director Tobias Manderson-Galvin has taken the opportunity, that the necessary change demanded, to expand the company.Joining Creative Director Tobias Manderson-Galvin at the helm, in a leadership role, we invite you to welcome John Kachoyan, new MKA Co-Creative Director. John has come from a year as Resident Director at Bell Shakespeare, recently directed the hit ‘Midsummer’ for Red Stitch and has spent the past half a decade staging new writing, more often than not Australian, in the U.K., at companies such as SOHO, Finborough, the Old Vic and his own company Ironbark.


“I’ve been following MKA’s brilliant work since the start, from London, then Sydney and having just moved to Melbourne, I’m thrilled to be joining the company as it continues to place playwrights at the centre of brave new works. Writers are what keep me coming back to the theatre – as a director and especially as a dramaturg – they’re at the centre of the work I make and the theatre I see. I am thrilled to join Tobias in expanding the work that’s already gone into making such a vibrant company.” J. Kachoyan
Here at MKA we’re delighted to announce that critic and academic, Jana Perkovic will remain as MKA’s Literary Manager! New to Melbourne, star director Kat Henry (About Tommy, Foxfinder) will join MKA as Resident Director, directing a series of readings as well as new full scale work. Developing his relationship with MKA, International Fellow of Shakespeare’s Globe Mark Wilson joins the company as Resident Dramaturg, a new position for MKA that will put greater emphasis on the development of new writing in a rehearsal context. Meanwhile you can see his solo show MKA: Unsex Me at the Melbourne Fringe 2013 from the 28th of Sep.
Further more: David Finnigan, former director and founder of both Crack Theatre Festival and Canberra’s You Are Here Festival will join MKA as Creative Associate (International). Direct from jointly running Melbourne University’s Mudfest,and Union Arts Offices, Eric Gardiner will join the company locally as Creative Associate (Melbourne). Promoting the work, in Marketing and Communications, Natalia Cheng joins MKA from Melbourne Writers Festival. Sarah Walker, who has been creating film and still work for MKA since it’s first season will retain theposition of Resident Photographer/Videographer. Corey Reynolds leads the company’s accounts as Financial Consultant. Glyn Roberts will stay an artistic associate of the company, maintaining a relationship of guidance and involvement in at least one artistic project in 2014. Keep in touch because we’ll be announcing more resident artists, in design and writing later in the 2013. MKA x
MKA: Theatre of New Writing
Co-Creative Director
John Kachoyan
Resident Director
Kat Henry
Creative Associate (International)
David Finnigan
Marketing & Communications
Natalia Cheng
Resident Photographer
Sarah Walker
Creative Director
Tobias Manderson-Galvin
Literary Manager
Jana Perkovic
Resident Dramaturg
Mark Wilson
Creative Associate (Melbourne)
Eric Gardiner
Financial Consultant
Corey ‘the Cougar’ Reynolds
The Future
Includes you!


Hello and Goodbye and Hello.
It is with simultaneous sadness and great excitement that I say farewell to being a part of the day to day running of MKA: Theatre of New Writing. What started out as a churlish idea shared by two even more churlish playwrights has in the past 4 years developed into one the most impressive and important independent theatre companies in Australia and of this I am very proud.
In the last 12 months alone MKA has not only presented great plays in Melbourne but also in  Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and in regional centres such as Geelong, Newcastle and  Penrith. I believe it is fair to say, at least far as Melbourne is concerned, MKA has in its short
 history, relaunched and revitalised playwrights and playwriting as art and artists of radical vibrancy, who will ultimately shape Australian theatre in the present and for future generations. I leave MKA not as a niche project confined to a pop-up space in basement somewhere in inner-city Melbourne but as a national company with a global outlook.
Although I will retain the purely honorary title of founding co-creative director I will be handing  over my duties and functional title to the more than capable John Kachoyan. John is a director and dramaturg by trade and has long been a friend of MKA. John’s work in the UK promoting new  Australian writing via his company Iron Bark and venerable theatre houses such as West London’s Finborough Theatre I have always admired and we are lucky to have him now working for MKA.
John will join MKA as the new co-creative director and with Tobias take MKA through to even greater heights over the coming years. That said MKA has been such a huge part of my life for the last 4 years that I shan’t be pulling my finger all the way out just yet but shall stay attached to the company as an Artistic Associate contributing ideas, strategy and keeping an eye on the big picture for MKA from my new perch up north.
Long Live MKA!
Glyn Roberts
Outgoing Co-Creative Director
MKA: Theatre of New Writing

That’s all for now! MKA xx

MKA at the Green Room Awards

MKA at the Green Room Awards!

Rear: Tanya Dickson; Centre: Tobias Manderson-Galvin; Right: Glyn Roberts.
Photograph by Sarah Walker.

MKA at the Green Room Awards


MKA were recipients of a special award for
contribution to independent theatre
at the annual ceremony last week.

The performing arts industry tradition that is the Green Room Awards Night was held last Monday May 6, in the lush antique setting of Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre and MKA were given a special one off award in praise of the company’s work in the North Melbourne Season, 2012. MKA was represented on the night with 11 nominations across 7 categories, including 4 best Actress nominees and 6 nominations for Triangle, but it was the company as a whole that would be singled out for honour when the envelopes were opened and the recipients read aloud.


“Another feather in a cap that is fast resembling something with lots of feathers. Like a falcon. Or an emu.
Or a dinosaur covered in feathers.”

The ceremony took place at the Marriner’s run theatre and, due to the one off nature of the night, took place on the set of a currently running commercial theatre production and let’s not mention the show but it- well it was like a David Lynch film-, lending a totally surreal air to proceedings. As the night drew to a a close, having already payed tribute to those who’d passed in the previous year, and there were a lot; and with all other awards, from all fields (dance, opera, cabaret, theatre, music theatre, hybrid/live art) already handed out, except for the sole life time achievement award, an announcement of a special award was made by that inimitable beauty, and the night’s host, Rhonda Burchmore. The award was for Special Contribution to Independent Theatre in Melbourne and the recipients of this one off prize were MKA. So up from their seats sprang MKA Co-Creative Directors Tobias Manderson-Galvin & Glyn Roberts, and 2012 Director in Residence Tanya Dickson, to recieve the award from Rhonda and award co-presenter Mark Trevorrow (aka Bob Downe). The North Melbourne MKA season included 3 new works, a re-mount and two subsequent tours, one national, one international, a play reading series in Berlin, threee resident artists, as well as new work developments, and a party or two.

 “Everyone was tired, bored or drunk.”

Roberts and Manderson-Galvin thanked the hundreds of artists who’ve contributed to MKA‘s works over the past 3 years and particularly the writers whose works have been staged by MKA in that time. The two seemed to spend a moment playing with the green, translucent, tower-like award statuette pretending it was a knife, a phallus, a bottle of sparkling water and then finally delighting upon the discovery that it could be used as a telescope. Roberts quipped about his fellow artists and played up to a crowd who, at that point, in the great tradition of awards nights everywhere were either tired, bored or drunk, then Manderson-Galvin climbed the 1 storey staircase on stage, a piece of set from the show that’s currently running, and as he descended, the three MKA leaders, together, made their grand exit amidst the wishing of thanks from the trio and many LOLs from the audience.

 “There were LOLs.”

This award is a further feather in a cap fast resembling a falcon or some other bird that kills other birds and eats them, and/or feeds them to it’s young, and i guess more to the point has lots of feathers. Those other feathers in the past year including the Melbourne Fringe ‘Melbourne Festival Discovery Award’ to Zoey Dawson (writer) of The Unspoken Word is ‘joe’, a handfull of Aussie Theatre Online Annual Awards for writing, direction and design and nominations and recognition from Time Out Awards, Patrick White Award (again Triangle) and The Stage Edinburgh Fringe Awards.


Here are the final Green Room results for MKA
(the award and the 11 nominees):

Nth Melb Season
Special Award
Tanya Dickson
Best Director
Rob Sowinski
Best Lighting
Georgina Capper
The Unspoken Word…
Best Actress
Best Production
Declan Greene
The Unspoken Word..
Best Director
Claudio Tocco
Best Sound/Music
Nikki Shiels
The Unspoken Word…
Best Actress
Glyn Roberts
Best Writing
Eugyeene Teh
Best Set/Costume
Whitney Boyd
Best Actress
Janine Watson
Best Actress
Special Award for Contribution to Indendent Theatre in Melbourne
MKA – North Melbourne Season for found space, design, writing and performances.for info on the awarded North Melbourne (Winter) season: a few red carpet snaps:

for more on the Green Room Awards:

for anything else:

MKA Nominated for 11 Green Room Awards

MKA Nominated for 11 Green Room Awards!

MKA: Theatre of New Writing has been nominated for 11 of the Melbourne based, 2012 Green Room Awards.



4 out of the 5 Best Female Performer Nominations
(Georgina Capper for the Unspoken Word is ‘Joe’, Whitney Boyd for sex.violence.blood.gore, Nikki Shiels for ‘the Unspoken Word is Joe’, Janine Watson for Triangle);

1 Best Set &/or Costume (Eugyeene Teh, Set for Triangle),

1 Best Lighting (Rob Sowinski for Triangle),

1 Best Sound/Music (Claudio Tokko, Sound for sex.violence.blood.gore),

2 Best Director (Tanya Olivia Dickson for Triangle, Declan Lohan for the Unspoken Word is ‘Joe’),

1 Best Production (Triangle) 

and 1 Best Writing (Glyn Roberts for Triangle)

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL 11, to everyone else who contributed and anyone who came along to see these works!

See more about the Green Room Awards?

Good thing we bribed them, beat them, bedded and blackmailed them. MKA xxx

Two Melb Shows of the Economist!

MKA: Theatre of New Writing

MKA’s ‘The Economist’
Performance and then Party!!!

Two Night Only Special Event!

In August 2012 MKA are taking The Economist by Tobias Manderson-Galvin to Edinburgh Fringe 2012.

Before the show goes, MKA are staging 2 NIGHTS ONLY of the critical and popularly acclaimed production, in order to raise the funds to send the show overseas, and to trial the new cast on a home stage.

Stick around and party the night away! Cupcakes! DJ! Dancing! Guests like Conor Gallacher!

About the play!
The first play written in response to the massacre on Utøya Island by Anders Breivik. From Australia’s controversial and acclaimed theatrical wild children MKA. Thor gets hooked on World of Warcraft. Andrew hearts Plastic Surgery. The army reckon he’s on the right track and refuse to enlist him.

For ‘The Economist’:
‘Brilliant … clinical’ (Age)
‘Disarmingly imaginative … superbly acted’(Australian).
‘Wicked take on political delusion’(TheatreNotes) ‘Mindf*ck’ (
‘Powerful, astute’ (
‘Thrilling’ (il Globo) ‘Masterful’ (Inpress)
‘Intelligent … considered’ (RealtimeArts)


We would love your attendance at this MKA Special Event

Two Nights of
‘The Economist’

Fri 20 + Sat 21 July, 8pm Shows
Then party til late

One night will be in an cavernous warehouse!
The other night in a boxing gym!

MKA North Melbourne
64 Sutton St, Nth Melbourne





Image credit: The Economist, 2011. Sarah Walker Photos, Pictured: (l to r) James Deeth, Marcus McKenzie, Zoey Dawson, Conor Gallacher, Peter Paltos

anonymous donor saves mka from court

The following is a message from MKA Artistic Director Tobias Manderson-Galvin.

On the 3rd of November 2010 MKA

had the company’s first play reading at the company’s new theatre in Tanner Street, Richmond. Following a series of playwriting workshops already held in the space and the success of our first production at La Mama Theatre, The Arts+Culture Branch of the Yarra Council were pleased that MKA would be securely in Richmond, the wider theatrical community was abuzz, even the police who’d popped by for the Official Launch Party the week before had offered their congratulations and wished the company all the best, no doubt thankful it wasn’t another illegal brothel to have to accept council bribes for. The permission for place of assembly permit was underway, MKA was told it was to be completed by February and a number of key obstacles had been waived by the relevant council officers. The need for the mandatory number of carpark spaces for example, as well as the $15,000 independent sound test (one the council are obliged to perform themselves anyway) had been waived. Why? Because MKA was simply presenting a well contained 40 seat theatre in the side of an old factory; next door to a large hairdresser, ten doors down from the Moira Gallery; twenty doors from a pub, a brothel, a bike shop, two cafes, about 40 metres from one of Melbourne’s largest railway stations, a hundred metres from the Corner Hotel (capacity 900 patrons) and 600 metres from the MCG. But it was not to be so simple.

That first night, the small theatre was packed with excited theatre goers and makers. Actors waited off-stage in the kitchen for their cue, the audience comfortable in the recently fitted space and a well-known Melbourne Satirist went against the general hipster fashion trend of tight black jeans by sporting a pair of over sized frilly underwear, by all accounts a success but scarcely had the readings on that first night drawn to a close when a knock at the door signalled the entry of a council officer. Due to complaints received prior to the first reading, complaints MKA were all too well aware of as they’d appeared in the letterboxes of everyone on Tanner street, sent anonymously in hysterical red ink, complaints made by local residents averse to the idea of a theatre on their street, the council came to shut the venue down.

Under Act No. 45 of 1987 Section 126 (3) of the Planning an Environment Act 1987; namely using land for the purpose of a Place of Assembly contrary to clause clause 32.04-1 of the Yarra Planning Scheme.

The reading, which the council representative described on the night as ‘quieter than most dinner parties’. An on the spot fine of $600-$2400 was issued. More were to follow the next day when three threatening officers from building and planning arrived to confront MKA’s Roberts and Manderson-Galvin outside the premise: demanding, without warrant, that they enter the property.

The boys refused and closed the venue at once, but that night a paranoid local in pyjamas, who refused to discuss the issues with either Manderson-Galvin or Roberts, was still taking photographs of the front of the venue on a smartphone – hoping to capture an incriminating, if grainy, snap of ‘theatre’. Three days later MKA reopened the ‘Open Season’ playreading series at QV Shopping Centre in the Melbourne CBD. A smug phone call from  the representative of the complainants let the boys know in no uncertain terms that they were not to come back. MKA was ‘doing a wonderful thing!’ just ‘not around here.’

The debacle was the focus of some media attention and a flood of support emails from international theatrical, literary, artistic communities. This was to no avail however, the council were not interested in supporting the group or finding them a new space.

Since then MKA has presented work at the pop-up theatre in QV Shopping Centre, full scale works at a custom built theatre in the Prahran Mission on Chapel Street. developments of four new texts at The Melbourne Theatre Company Theatre’s VIP Rooms. toured to The Street Theatre in Canberra and presented workshops and panels at Crack Theatre Festival  (Newcastle) and the Emerging Writers Festival (Melbourne). And most recently MKA have spent the last 3 months at School House Studios, Abbotsford. We closed a week ago. The cost is something we’re happy to share, pertinent to say however is that we’ve been generously supported by the establishments at each location and the public and theatrical community who have attended the shows, written about them and assisted in their promotion.

And the cost for that one night in Richmond back in early November 2010?

MKA was unwilling to pay the initial fine of approx $600 due to what MKA considered to be a complete misrepresentation of facts in the affidavit of the Yarra Officer (an affidavit made under oath and which MKA makes freely available should anyone wish to read a script that does not meet our literary department’s standards of excellence) as well as Yarra’s unwillingness to review the matter without the involvement of the Magistrates’ Court.

Due to this the maximum fine to be leveled at MKA was


For one night of playreading.


Fortunately for MKA, yesterday at around midday, an anonymous donor paid the outsanding fines owed to the City of Yarra, fortunately far less than the figure proposed above. MKA is free once again of debts but sadly the City of Yarra is still with out its theatre.


Where will we go next?

Wherever it is it is with great thanks to the anonymous donor and to all of you for your continued support of our company.

Thank you for being with us in 2011.


To many years more.


MKA Artistic Director,

Tobias Manderson-Galvin 


2011 a year in review

This gallery contains 14 photos.

2011 A YEAR IN REVIEW Season One: Sleepyhead, 22 Short Plays, The Horror Face, J.A.T.O.; MKA@MTC: Rockefeller, Tuesday., Twins, The Sun Room; 22 Short Plays (Canberra); Open Season; Season Two: She’s A Little Finch, The Economist, plus Workshops and panel discussions at the Emerging Writers Festival (Melbourne), Crack Theatre Festival (Newcastle), participation in the Australian Theatre Forum, […]