Sydney-based actor and playwright Matthew Whittet has enjoyed a perhaps disproportionate amount of his success as a writer Adelaide. Twelve, his first play was workshoped at the National Playwrights Conference in Perth in 2006, and his first produced play was Silver, a monologue which Whittet also performed, at Downstairs Belvoir in 2009. His latest work, Old Man, will again be playing in Belvoir’s downstairs theatre this June, but between these Sydney outings, three of his works have had main-stage productions in Adelaide.
Two of these plays were presented in very quick succession in 2010, with Windmill Theatre producing Fugitive in August, and Brink Productions producing Harbinger in September. While the shows weren’t without their issues (particularly in the final scenes of Harbinger), Whittet did in many ways cement himself to Adelaide’s audience as someone with a unique mind, twisting slightly off centre into bizarre universes filled with awkwardness, and with love.
School Dance, again produced by Windmill, premiered in the Adelaide Festival this year. While this work still sits very early in Whittet’s career as a playwright, it was embodied with a wonderful of air of trust on behalf of Rose Myers and Teena Munn, the Artistic Director and General Manager / Executive Producer of Windmill, respectively.
Like Fugitive, School Dance has been directed by Myers, and above all else feels like Whittet was given the absolute freedom to make a work to his vision. The resulting play is one that, as soon as you start to detail it on the page, sounds so peculiar, so unconventional, and so illogical that it wouldn’t work; and yet through this trust is borne something that works absolutely.