Mary Anne Butler is the first playwright to have won Australia’s most generous literary prize, with her play ‘Broken’.

Mary Anne Butler has become the first playwright to win the Victorian Prize for Literature, Australia’s most generous literary award. She receives $100,000 prize money for her play, Broken. She was also awarded the prize for best drama, worth an additional $25,000. The Darwin playwright says she never expected to win, and that it was “absolutely surreal” to take home two awards.

Broken tells the story of Ash, a young woman trapped after a car accident, and her growing relationship with Ham, the man who comes to her aid. Meanwhile, Ham’s wife Mia is struggling at home with a miscarriage. The play won the ‘Best Script’ category of the 2014 Northern Territory Literary Awards and was shortlisted for the 2014 Griffin Award.

 Mary Anne Butler receiving one of her awards

Butler was struck with inspiration for the work after hearing of a woman who was trapped for 36 hours after her car rolled off the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory. She interviewed a paramedic about the procedure for when a crash victim is treated and found inspiration in his reply. “He said you reassure them and keep them talking. I said surely bonds would form in that case because you have someone really vulnerable and someone really in control…the story started there,” she explained in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.  Broken explores the bond that can form between individuals in distress by asking the question: When you find yourself empty, how do you start again?

The work was premiered at Brown’s Mart Theatre in Darwin, and the company’s executive director Sean Party was in Melbourne for the awards ceremony. “[There were] audible gasps of excitement from everybody around. It was a wonderful moment,” Party said in an interview with ABC. “It is one of those plays where the audience has to do some thinking,” he said.

If the money is not taxed, Butler plans to use it over the next three years to finish works currently underway, including two plays and a plan to convert an old play to a novel.

Darlinghurst Theatre Company is presenting Broken as part of their 2016 season. For ticket sales and more information, visit their website here

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