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National Agitators: Confronting Australian Theatre


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Patricia Cornelius, Susie Dee and Nicci Wilks have been making radical and confronting theatre together for decades. ‘I’ve never believed the bullshit about how audiences don’t like risk,’ Cornelius has said. ‘They actually really do. I’ve seen it.’

Long-term collaborators, their work has more often found a home in innovative independent companies than in establishment state theatres. Yet their provocative Australian stories, dealing especially with issues of class and power, have brought them huge admiration among audiences and critics.

Their admirers, it turns out, extend far beyond Australian shores. Earlier this year, Patricia Cornelius was named among the winners of the lucrative Windham-Campbell Prize, administered by Yale University. Two of her plays – SHIT and LOVE – will be staged at the Venice Biennale in July.

But first, those two productions will show in Melbourne at fortyfivedownstairs, directed by Dee and starring Wilks. Before they hit the road for Venice, we’ll present a conversation with the powerhouse trio at the Wheeler Centre. Join them as they speak with Alison Croggon about politics, performing arts and the power of making audiences squirm in their seats.


Patricia Cornelius

Patricia Cornelius is a founding member of Melbourne Workers Theatre. She’s a playwright, novelist and film writer. She’s the recipient of the Windham-Campbell Literature Prize and the 2019 Green Room award for Life Achievement. She’s been awarded the Victorian, NSW and Queensland PremiersR... Read more

Nicci Wilks

Nicci is a freelance artist continually creating and performing works of various art forms. She began her career with the Flying Fruit Fly Circus. She has trained in theatre and circus around the globe including: The Nanjing Acrobatic Troupe (China), the John Palacy Trapeze Volant School (France), ... Read more

Susie Dee

Susie has worked extensively in the theatre as a performer, devisor and director in Australia and overseas for the past thirty years. She has been the Artistic Director of three theatre companies: Melbourne Workers Theatre (MWT), Union House Theatre (UHT) and Institute Of Complex Entertainment (ICE)... Read more

Alison Croggon

Alison Croggon is an award-winning novelist, poet, theatre writer, critic and editor who lives in Melbourne, Australia. She works in many genres and her books and poems have been published to acclaim nationally and internationally. She is arts editor for The Saturday Paper and co-founder of the per... Read more


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