WRITING
Staff Profiles

Patrick Van Der Werf

Photo of Patrick Van Der Werf

p.vanderwerf@deakin.edu.au

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When it works best, theatre is a form of lucid dreaming.

Playwright, Patrick Van Der Werf cites the theorist, Terence Hawkes who believes that theatre is a basically dead art form maintained on life support by the goodwill of its practitioners. ‘But then again,’ Patrick says, ‘there's always David Williamson.

Photo of book cover Dirty Laundry by Kate Herbert and Moon Babies by Patrick Van Der Werf Patrick has worked with some of Australia's best directors, including Ros Horin and Ariette Taylor, but nevertheless manages – like most playwrights – to maintain a low profile. ‘When I'm allocating workshop slots in writing classes,’ he says, ‘I occasionally give first choice to anyone who can name an Australian playwright.’ This generally draws a blank. ‘Not even Williamson,’ he says.

Patrick believes that the grouping together of screenwriting and playwrighting as kindred genres is largely an act of political marginalisation. ‘Film is closer to the novel than it is to theatre,’ he says. ‘Look at the way film and the novel deal with issues such as point of view, cutting and representation.’ Theatre, on the other hand, is closer to poetry. ‘It's all to do,’ Patrick says, ‘with finding heightened, mutated forms of representation. If you ask a poet or a playwright to represent, say, a forest, they will immediately look for that one image which can fulfil the task within the exigencies of their form.

Patrick is currently working in collaboration with Red Stitch Actors' Theatre on a new play. ‘Working with the actors from scratch is truly scary,’ he says. ‘Eventually you realise that they've come to care very deeply about the material, and so they take great offence when you get it wrong.

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