By Daniel KeeneDramaSydney Theatre Company

The Long Way Home

This highly original play is the result of a collaboration between the Australian Defence Force, Sydney Theatre Company and writer Daniel Keene.

‘I think it’s important for the public to hear the stories that these soldiers have to tell,’ says Keene. ‘They represent Australia, they act in our name. But does the public actually know what they’ve been doing or what they’ve achieved?’

Produced in consultation and partnership with returned military personnel suffering physical and psychological injuries, it allows these soldiers to tell their stories – and invites the public into their experiences so they might better understand them.

Keene has not used the soldiers’ stories verbatim, documentary-style, but rather adapted and stitched them into a narrative that represents their experiences. The result is a collage of scenes that range from the combat zone to hospital beds, men cleaning the house all night because they can’t sleep, and marriages crumbling under the pressure of men broken and unable to communicate.

The Sydney Morning Herald called it ‘a powerful, humanising and evidently healing experience’.

Portrait of Daniel Keene

Daniel Keene

Daniel has written for the theatre since 1979. He has won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Drama twice, the NSW Premier’s Literary Award for Drama three times, the Adelaide Festival Award for Literature, the Wal Cherry Play of the Year Award, the Sumner Locke Elliot Prize (New York) and the Griffith University Creative Writing Program Award at the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards. He has also received, with Ariette Taylor, the Kenneth Myer Medallion for the Performing Arts for his contribution to Australian theatre with the Keene/Taylor Theatre Project. His work has been presented at the Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide International Arts Festivals and at the Melbourne Theatre Company and Sydney Theatre Company.

Since 2000, over 80 productions of his work have been presented in Europe, predominately in France. He was the first (and so far, the only) Australian playwright to be produced in the main program of the Avignon Festival, and major productions and tours of his work include theatres such as the Théâtre de la Commune in Paris, Scéne Nationale de Toulouse, Scéne Nationale de Valence, Scéne Nationale de Bordeaux and the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris. Seven volumes of his plays (French translations by Severine Magois) have been published by éditions Théâtrales, Paris.

Over the past three years, more than a dozen of his plays have been performed and toured in France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal and Luxembourg. In January 2013, a bilingual production of Cho Cho San, his adaptation of Madame Butterfly, opened in Beijing before beginning a tour of China.

Judges’ report

It’s appropriate that this exceptional work is prefaced by lines from Homer’s The Odyssey; it is a modern epic, utterly timely yet transcendent of its historical moment. Developed through extensive collaboration with Australian soldiers who have been deployed across the globe, The Long Way Home skilfully re-articulates their experiences in a dazzling succession of very memorable vignettes. It is not polemic, but neither is it apolitical. To muster the levels of compassion demanded by this project itself requires great and unflinching bravery, and Keene has risen to the task admirably. There are neither heroes nor villains in this telling, but the gradual accretion of intimate moments produces an expansive tapestry illustrating the ways in which vast power structures shape all of our lives.

The Premier’s 21 Shortlist