Plays

Hilary’s works for theatre span everything from family musicals to psychological thrillers, taking in comedies, adaptations and opera along the way. All scripts are available for purchase, either through Australian Plays, Currency Press or by contacting RGM Artists.

SPLINTER

A couple are reunited with their missing daughter. Frantic activity has sustained them through her long absence, but now that the miracle has occurred and she’s home, her father struggles to recognise her.

Splinter barely needs special effects. It doesn’t even need a Laura. Hilary Bell’s lyrical prose orchestrates the gothic, leaving us suspended over the abyss.”

Sydney Morning Herald

Griffin production, 2019. Photo by Brett Boardman.

THE HYPOCHONDRIAC

Adapted from Moliere’s play

(Music by Phillip Johnston, available on request)

Argan is the tyrannical head of a household of women, using his imagined illnesses to keep them all running to do his bidding.

“This is a laugh-out-loud, hilarious ride that is clever, witty, intelligent and a feast for the senses. Hilary Bell’s script is a masterpiece and she truly is one of the best creative minds this country has.”

Symes Group

Darlinghurst Theatre production, 2018. Photo by Robert Catto.

THE RED TREE

A PSYCHADELIC-POP MUSICAL
Based on Shaun Tan’s picture book ‘The Red Tree’

COMPOSER: GRETA GERTLER GOLD

Ava wakes up and can’t get out of bed. There’s nothing especially wrong, she simply doesn’t like the prospect of facing the day. As she tries to persuade herself to get up and go to school, she visualises what may lie ahead – and finds herself tumbling, like Alice down the rabbit-hole, into the oversaturated, psychedelic world of her imagination, with all its beauties and terrors.

“It’s rare I feel moved enough to give a standing ‘o’ at the end of a performance but if a musical is profound, and this one is, it just feels right…I watched this show with excitement and felt uplifted by its portrayal of triumph over darkness, loving its pacing and its remarkably short and sweet delivery.”

Weekend Notes

National Theatre of Parramatta production, 2017. Photo by Noni Carroll.

TAKE TWO: A COMEDY OF ERRORS

A NEW VERSION OF SHAKESPEARE’S CLASSIC FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES

(Music by Maria Alfonsine, available on request)

Antipholus and his servant Dromio arrive in Ephesus searching for their long-lost twin brothers – who also happen to be called Antipholus and Dromio. Throw in a jealous wife , her long-suffering sister, a nun, a courtesan, an exorcist, a celebrity jeweller, musical numbers, and it’s a recipe for comedy chaos.

” By changing up the language, adding vivacious musicality and a winsome cast this show made me laugh, cheer and sing on the way home. It’s high energy and vibrates positive energy throughout.”

The Buzz From Sydney

National Theatre of Parramatta production, 2019. Photo by Noni Carroll.

THE RED BALLOON

On his way to school Pascal, a friendless little boy, is delighted to find a big red balloon. He unties it from the lamp-post and takes it with him, soon discovering it has a mind of its own.

“Kids are the best reviewers of their theatre, and they do it in real time, with laughter, gasps of wonderment and, especially, questions. There were plenty of all three for this wonderful, impressively staged story.”

The Australian

Black Swan production, 2015. Photo by Gary Marsh.

THE WHITE DIVERS OF BROOME

The tiny West Australian pearling town of Broome 1912, and it’s boom-time. Sydney Pigott is a wealthy pearling master looking for a way around the White Australia Policy, anxious to keep his cheap Asian workers – and his high profits. Webber, Sanders and Beasily are the cream of the British Navy’s divers. They arrive in Broome naïvely convinced they’ll prove their skills when they hit the hazardous seas and collect the precious mother-of-pearl. But desperate Asian crews, shadowy alliances and the ruthless environment of Broome are against the white divers from the beginning. From the brothels to the ballrooms to the deep seas, it’s a cutthroat world and trust is hard to find.

Sumptuously presented historical drama captivates with grand emotions, hushed-up history and petty politics.

Artshub

Black Swan production, 2012. Photo by Gary Marsh & Fiona Hoy.

WOLF LULLABY

In a bleak, remote town, a small child is murdered. Suspicion falls on 9-year-old Lizzie. Convinced her daughter is guilty, Lizzie’s young mother must make the torturous choice between ignoring her intuition and presenting Lizzie to the police.

“A tantalizing and engrossing night in the theatre… The ‘Wolf Lullaby’ maelstrom carries remarkable force – its strength and power found in the paradoxes it seeks to illuminate and the flawed humanity in its grasp. … There are many vivid, memorable moments, as much a product of taut, accomplished writing as anything.”

Bryce Hallett, ‘The Age’ 1997

Griffin production, 1996. Photo by Robert McFarlane.

MEMMIE LE BLANC

France, 1731. A savage girl is captured in the woods. Memmie Le Blanc, as they baptise her, is bounced from charity to convent, eventually becoming the ward of a widow who believes she can give Memmie the life she deserves. But in order to do this, Memmie’s wildness must be eradicated. Thus begins the brutal act of civilisation.

“[Bell] spoon-feeds us nothing, letting us ponder and make our own meaning of things… You have to go see this. Beg, borrow or steal the ticket money and go. Go twice. I would.”

Australian Stage

Deckchair Theatre production, 2007. Photo by Jon Green.

VICTIM SIDEKICK BOYFRIEND ME

What if you committed a crime and were allowed to get away with it? A young woman is thrilled when her victim’s boyfriend, and then their whole group of friends, not only forgive her but also welcome her into their circle. At first she takes this for granted, however as she’s affected by their kindness her conscience is aroused – to the point where she craves a chance to atone. But what are they really doing? If it’s not as simple as mercy, if they’re not using her to fill the victim’s place, then perhaps they’re exacting a punishment far more intimate.

“(I) am impressed by the complex way in which writer Hilary Bell approaches the psychology of teenage relationships, so that this isn’t a play dumbed down for teenagers but written to challenge them.”

A Younger Theatre

THE FALLS

(Music by Phillip Johnston, available on request)

Sydney, 1895. Meet three Great Liars: Alberta the polygamist; Jack and his plans to hoodwink the world with an outrageous hoax; and Alberta’s long-lost sister Nellie, a would-be memoirist. There is also Praise-God, the bathchair-ridden, mute, bearded six-year-old. There’s melancholic Pigeon, reborn through the conviction of Jack’s lie. And there’s Doctor Rachel Sylvester, seduced by Alberta, little knowing the truth about her… The Falls is a Victorian melodrama, part-musical, part-ghost story, part-love story, an exploration of deceit and self-delusion. The play asks, “If a lie brings happiness, is it not preferable to the truth?”

“Hilary Bell… has concocted that rarest of treats, a smart, audacious and adult comedy.” “Truly, madly, deeply brilliant.”

Colin Rose, Sydney Morning Herald, 2000

Griffin production, 2000. Lucy Bell & Jackie Weaver.

FORTUNE

Set in the Australian goldfields of the 1860s – a world of travelling freak shows, grave robbing, convicts, angels of retribution and Chinese opera – Fortune tells the story of Chang the ‘Tartar Monster’. Eleven years old, seven feet tall and alone in the world, Chang is owned by the cruel Reinhardt, who sells his appearance for souvenir snapshots. Into Chang’s life comes Kathleen, newly emancipated and a determined survivor. Treated as a human being, at last, Chang begins to turn the tables, showing how readily society’s oppressed embrace the role of oppressor.Griffin, 1993

“The story Bell has woven into a particularly strong and intriguing narrative is almost a statement of belief in the power and magic of theatre.”

Frank Gauntlett, Daily Mirror 1993

THE ANATOMY LESSON OF DOCTOR RUYSCH

Winner of 2003 AWGIE (Australian Writers’ Guild Award) for Best Music Theatre.           

(Music by Phillip Johnston, available on request)

Amsterdam, 1698. Doctor Frederik Ruysch is an anatomist – and artist – of great renown. His materials are body-parts and foetuses, which he arranges in beautiful and moralizing tableaux. He is assisted by his little daughter Rachel, whose intricate needlework adorns the dismembered and the unborn. Rachel follows her father wherever he leads, whether it be into the contortions of his philosophy, or the belly of a beached whale. For all her apprehension, she is rewarded by the sight of unimaginable wonders. When the Tsar of Russia comes to purchase Ruysch’s entire collection, the doctor betrays his daughter. She is devastated, but it is Doctor Ruysch whose world is upended.

“Playwright Hilary Bell has created a work of eclectic splendour which begins with deliciously macabre humour and then veers into bizarre fantasy.”

Samela Harris, ‘The Advertiser’ 2002

‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Ruysch’ 1670, Adriaen Backer

THE SEAGULL

Adapted from Chekhov’s play

“Hilary Bell’s adaptation is modernised effectively. Bell successfully balances Chekhov’s sense of humour, absurdity and sorrow while maintaining the metronome of emotional thuggery in the Russian original.”

Aussie Theatre, 2014

STCSA production, 2014. Photo by Shane Reid.

ANGELA’S KITCHEN

BY PAUL CAPSIS, CO-WRITTEN WITH JULIAN MEYRICK AND HILARY BELL

“Where do people ultimately belong, culturally, spiritually? For Australians this is not a simple question. Family histories bob and weave across centuries and catastrophes. Angela, Annuciato and Paul’s story is just one strand in this collective tale. But it is an emblematic one, resonating with the love, loyalty, hilarity and tragedy that ultimately conditions all our lives.” Julian Meyrick.

“Delightful evenings like Angela’s Kitchen are a reminder of just how powerful, engaging and charming theatre at its simplest storytelling levels can be.”

Neil Litchfield, Stage Whispers 2012

Griffin production, 2012. Photo by Katie Kaars.

MRS PRESIDENT

AN OPERA

COMPOSER: VICTORIA BOND

Victoria Woodhull – clairvoyant, radical, publisher, jailbird, actress, preacher, feminist and Presidential candidate – gave 19th century New York a run for its money. Born into a white-trash family of scam-artists, Victoria clawed her way up to titled London society, leaving in her wake a trail of broken hearts, ruined reputations, unspeakable scandals… and incipient reform.

“Hilary Bell’s smart libretto underpins an intriguing new opera about the first woman to run for president of the US. Bond’s score is full of melodic gestures that burst into lyrical blossoms… In Bell she’s clearly found an effective collaborator whose text is direct, sufficiently poetic, and – crucially – easily musically malleable.”

Clive Paget, Limelight 2019

THE MYSTERIES: GENESIS

Written in collaboration with Lally Katz

Drawing on the theatrical origins of Medieval mystery plays, The Mysteries: Genesis is an immersive work in three parts, recounting the stories of Creation, Cain and Abel, and Noah’s Ark. Originally directed by Tom Wright, Matt Lutton and Andrew Upton.

“Tautly scripted and rich with curious apocrypha and invention, strong performances and an engaging use of space, the writer Hilary Bell and director Andrew Upton have engendered a disturbingly lateral account of the arrival of Death in the Bible narrative.”

Keith Gallasch, Realtime 2011

Sydney Theatre Company production, 2011. Photo by Brett Boardman.

THE BLOODY BRIDE

Inspired by Lorca’s ‘Blood Wedding’, this is the story of Darren and Cassie, young lovers happily living in a caravan in Lismore. They invite Leo, a middle-aged Irish backpacker into their lives. Within minutes he’s exposed the fault-lines in their relationship, exploiting their naïveté for his own amusement. But things turn dangerous when the couple becomes fixated on a belief of who Leo really is.

“In this impressive new work by Hilary Bell, we will be drawn into a metaphorical world of innocence corrupted by passionate desire, repressed sexuality, jealousy, nihilism and death; unusually heightened themes for Australian theatre.”

Peter Barclay, Realtime 2008

NORPA production, 2008. Photo by Christian Watts.

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