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Hilary BellScreenwriter | Playwright | Author

Since writing Wolf Lullaby in 1995, Hilary’s plays have been produced nationally by Griffin, STC, Belvoir, Black Swan, Deckchair, La Boite, NORPA, the National Theatre of Parramatta and Vitalstatistix; in the US by Atlantic and Steppenwolf; and in the UK by the National’s Connections programme. These include Fortune, The Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Ruysch, The Falls, Memmie Le Blanc, The Red Balloon, The White Divers of Broome, The Splinter, Victim Sidekick Boyfriend Me, The Mysteries: Genesis (with Lally Katz), The Red Tree, and adaptations of Chekhov’s The Seagull, Moliere’s The Hypochondriac, and Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors. She was associate writer on Paul Capsis’ Angela’s Kitchen. She has written libretti for opera, musicals and song cycles. She is a multi-award-winner, with accolades including Philip Parsons, Jill Blewitt, Bug’n’Bub (USA), Aurealis Fiction, the Eric Kocher (USA), Inscription, a Helpmann and two AWGIEs. Hilary is a graduate of the Juilliard Playwrights’ Studio, NIDA, and AFTRS. She was the 2003-04 Tennessee Williams Fellow in Creative Writing at the University of the South, Tennessee, and in 2013 the Patrick White Playwriting Fellow at the STC. She is also the creator, with artist Antonia Pesenti, of best-selling picture book Alphabetical Sydney. For a full CV please contact info@rgm.com.au.

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Books & Plays

  • Cast: 3 female, 2 male (with doubling)
  • Amsterdam, 1698. Doctor Ruysch is an anatomist and artist of great renown. His materials are body-parts, which he arranges in moralizing tableaux. He is assisted by his little daughter Rachel, whose intricate needlework adorns the dismembered and the unborn. A faithful assistant, 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. But 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.
  • AWGIE Award for Music Theatre 2003.
  • Published by the Australian Script Centre; purchase via Australian Plays.
  • Cast: 1 male
  • Paul Capsis’ story about his Maltese grandmother, Angela – her family’s flight from Malta to Australia, life in 1950s Surry Hills, and raising her grandsons. She always yearned for Malta but never returned in her lifetime; Paul gives her a theatrical journey home.
  • Taffy Davies Award for Best New Australian Play 2012; Helpmann Award for Best New Australian Work 2012
  • Purchase through Currency Press or Australian Plays.
  • Cast: 1 female, 2 male
  • Darren and Cassie, young lovers happily living in a caravan in Lismore 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 with an idea of what Leo really is.
  • Please contact RGM for a copy of the play.
  • Cast: 2 female, 2 male
  • In order to cheer up their bereaved mother, her two adult children give her a cat. But horror and bloodshed ensue when they discover how successful their gift has been. A comic tragedy in verse.
  • Please contact RGM for a copy of the play.
  • Cast: 8 female, 5 male
  • Best friends Abby and Alicia play a cyber-prank on a local politician. The event snowballs, turning into a major scandal, forcing them to run away together. They find themselves in the waiting room of Lithgow Station, surrounded by bizarre teenagers who, it turns out, are all fake identities. What they reveal to the girls shatters their friendship and their lives.
  • Please contact RGM for a copy of the play.
  • Musical: Composer – Phillip Johnston
  • Cast: 8 (plus band)
  • Do Good And You Will Be Happy is a musical for adults and grown-up children. It’s a fantasia inspired by Cole’s Funny Picture Book, the enduringly popular 19th century publication from Melbourne bookseller E.W. Cole. Cole is threatened by the conservative City Council, led by the Headmaster, with the closure of his marvellous Book Arcade. With his wife Eliza and some anthropomorphised animals, he makes a book promulgating his utopian philosophy. The book will mean that even if he loses the Arcade, his ideas will live on. The Headmaster is determined to cast Cole as a madman rather than a visionary. On the brink of losing everything, Cole is vindicated by the appearance of an aerial parade of flying machines, proof of his belief in human ingenuity, and a triumph over the forces of conservatism.
  • Nominated for the Edward Albee Fellowship 2013
  • Please contact RGM for a copy of the script.
  • Cast: 10+
  • Wreckage, The Bog Queen, Orilla Del Mundo, Tom and Eva – four connected short plays which share shipwrecks as their catalysts. Ranging in style from lyrical tragedy, to Seussian folklore, to musical high camp, to icy ghost story, the pieces are intertwined so that each is intensified by the others.
  • Eric Kocher Playwrights’ Award 1999
  • Please contact RGM for a copy of the play.
  • Cast: 3 male, 3 female
  • 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 Falls asks, “If a lie brings happiness, is it not preferable to the truth?”
  • Bug’n’Bub Award, New York 2000
  • Published by the Australian Script Centre; purchase through Australian Plays.
  • Cast: 2 female, 4 male (with doubling), musician.
  • Set in the Australian goldfields of the 1860s – a world of travelling freak shows, grave robbing, convicts, angels of retribution and Chinese opera – this is the story of Chang the ‘Tartar Monster’. Eleven years old, seven feet tall and alone in the world, Chang is enslaved to the cruel Reinhardt, who sells his appearance for souvenir snapshots. Into his life bursts Kathleen, a newly emancipated convict determined to survive. But when he’s further exploited by her lover Duck, Chang starts turning the tables, showing how readily the oppressed embraces the role of oppressor.
  • Purchase via Currency Press, or contact RGM.
  • Cast: 4 female, 3 male (with doubling)
  • Argan is the tyrannical head of a household of women, using his imagined illnesses to keep them all running to do his bidding. But when he declares that he’s marrying his daughter off to the idiot son of his doctor in order to have on-tap medical attention, his housekeeper Toinette puts her foot down. She uses his own narcissism against him to the point where he swears off quacks for life. She then proceeds to reveal the duplicity of his wife Beline, and his daughter’s true love for musician Cleante. However when Argan has been successfully stripped of all his delusions, she realises that he really is suffering – from hypochondria – and is in no fit state to face reality.
  • Nominated for the John West Memorial Award for the Most Outstanding New Australian Performed Work, 2018
  • Published by the Australian Script Centre.
  • Cast: 2 male, 2 female (with doubling)
  • 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. Memmie is beginning to respond to Catherine’s well-meaning discipline when they are interrupted by an ambitious young doctor, who travels everywhere with an orangutan named Robert. Memmie is soon torn between her aspirations and her natural instincts.
  • Published by the Australian Script Centre; purchase via Australian Plays.
  • Opera: Composer – Victoria Bond
  • Cast: 4 female, 3 male (plus secondary characters and ensemble)
  • Victoria Woodhull – clairvoyant, radical, publisher, jailbird, stockbroker, free lover and Presidential candidate – gives 19th-century New York a run for its money. Born into a white-trash family of scam-artists, Victoria scales the heights of high society before her exposure of a sex scandal involving the popular Reverend Henry Ward Beecher sends her plummeting.
  • Purchase through Theodore Presser.
  • Cast: 5 female, 5 male (with doubling)
  • A three-part telling of the Bible’s Genesis: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Noah’s Flood.
  • Please contact RGM for a copy of the play.
  • Cast: 1 female, ensemble of 20+ (doubling)
  • A woman, Ruth, runs away from the ordinary pressures of life to collect herself. Returning home the next day, something is wrong: her city is the same, yet all she can see is displacement and disconnection. After a nightmarish struggle to get back to her house, she discovers she no longer lives there, no longer belongs anywhere. She encounters one lost soul after another, all of them people struggling against obsolescence. With mounting horror, she begins to understand what has happened to her. She can either accept her irrelevance, or find a way to belong in this new world.
  • Please contact RGM for a copy of the play.
  • Children’s theatre with music and poetry; adapted from the 1956 film
  • Cast: 3 (with doubling) and 2 children (1 female, 1 male)
  • Adapted from Albert Lamorisse’s Oscar-winning 1956 film, this highly theatrical version features a trio of flea-ridden street animals and a lonely little boy who finds, and befriends, a big red balloon. Set in working-class Paris soon after the War, the story follows Pascal and his new friend via puppetry, music and song, as they withstand the disapproval of those around them. Pascal commits the sin of standing out from the crowd – hard not to with a large rubber balloon for a companion – for which a gang of bullies sees he pays the ultimate price. But when all seems lost, hope arrives in a surprising form and carries Pascal high above the rooftops of his city.
  • 2017 AWGIE Award for Children’s Theatre
  • Published by the Australian Script Centre; purchase from Australian Plays.
  • Musical: Composer – Greta Gertler Gold
  • Adapted from Shaun Tan’s picture book of the same name
  • Cast: 1 female, 2 puppeteers, 3 musicians
  • Ava can’t face the prospect of getting out of bed. There’s nothing especially wrong, it’s just one of those days where everything feels overwhelming. She takes refuge under the covers, picturing what would happen if she did venture out – she’s tossed from one nightmarish world to another. Her imaginings culminate in her being swallowed by a giant fish. But she discovers that with patience and resourcefulness, things change for the better.
  • Purchase from Australian Plays.
  • Cast: 4 female, 6 male
  • Chekhov’s well-known story about a fading B-grade actress, her novelist lover, her playwright son and his ambitious girlfriend: despite the lazy summer days and remote country setting, everyone’s operating at fever pitch. What at first glance appears to be a rueful meditation on love and art reveals itself to be full of fire, desperation, comedy and cruelty. Under the frozen surface race treacherous rapids. These characters are pining, angry, frustrated, awkward, rash. Their emotions are operatic: fervent love and jealousy, heartbreak, seduction and infidelity, suicides both failed and successful. What we witness is the moments leading up to these cataclysms and their fall-out.
  • Purchase from Australian Plays.
  • Cast: 2 female
  • When Kate discovers her 80-year-old mother has lost everything to internet gambling, and the two of them living together is out of the question, she makes an outrageous, if pragmatic, proposition.
  • Purchase via Currency Press (Short Circuit anthology), or contact RGM.
  • Susan Smith Blackburn Award finalist 1999
  • Not currently available for purchase.
  • Cast: 1 female, 1 male (plus 2 puppeteers, optional)
  • A five-year-old girl who has been missing for nine months is restored to her overjoyed parents. To bond with her again, they take her to their remote beach house. While Laura’s mother is happy and grateful, her father becomes increasingly concerned. He’s struck by changes in her personality. She doesn’t care about her beloved toys or her secret ‘island’, a rock where the tide comes in fast (and her mother doesn’t permit her to go). He follows Laura when she sleepwalks into the garden at night till she stops at the edge of a cliff, and he realises she’s not his daughter, nor is she some other child. She’s a changeling. His wife doesn’t understand his odd behaviour, while he only sees her falling further under the changeling’s spell. He understands that if he wants to save his wife, and to reclaim his own Laura, there is only one course open to him.
  • Published by Currency Press; purchase through Australian Plays.
  • Cast: 2 female
  • Two women meet in a café on Christmas Eve. One speaks, the other remains silent. The speaker discovers a secret that upends her world, but she reconciles herself to it before leaving the silent woman alone on a wintry night.
  • Please contact RGM for a copy of the play.
  • Cast: 2 female
  • Rebecca and Janet are friends, neighbours and secretly lovers. How to manage their complicated affair between work, babies, partners and shifts at the food co-op?
  • Please contact RGM for a copy of the play.
  • Cast: 13 female, 4 male (plus choir)
  • Patience has beauty, wit, kindness and wisdom – and a birthmark. At her birth, an uninvited guest proclaims that when Patience reaches sixteen, this mark will become hideous to all who behold it. Her best friend Harriet is prepared to go to any length to get rid of it for her. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Birthmark’ meets ‘Sleeping Beauty’ in a play for young actors.
  • Please contact RGM for a copy of the play.
  • Cast: 10 (plus ensemble)
  • 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. The play asks us to consider the complex theme of guilt and punishment and question what it means to really forgive.
  • Commissioned by the National Theatre, UK (Connections Programme)
  • Anthologised in Connections 2012, Nick Hern Books; purchase through Australian Plays.
  • Musical: Composer – Douglas Stephen Rae
  • Cast: 2 female, 3 male (plus ensemble)
  • A story of first contact between mainlanders and islanders. Newly-weds Michael and Rose venture to an island for their honeymoon, where their pursuit of rumoured gold takes them to the unexplored highlands. There, they are assumed to be sky-gods, and Michael is presented with a gift: the chief’s daughter Mia. Michael and Mia’s love transcends Rose’s murder of the chief, Mia’s sacrificial burning, and Michael’s climactic walk on water.
  • Please contact RGM for a copy of the play.
  • Main cast: 4 female, 7 male (plus 6 additional roles)
  • 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. Inspired by the book of the same name by John Bailey, The White Divers of Broome is a celebration of Broome and its exotic clash of cultures.
  • Published by the Australian Script Centre; purchase through Australian Plays.
  • Cast: 2 female, 2 male
  • Is there intrinsic evil in the world? 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. Lizzie is not the only one who is changed forever by the act. The adults around her, bewildered and full of denial, find their accepted beliefs crumbling around them in a play which explores the sources of violence and its legacy.
  • Jill Blewett Playwrights’ Award; Philip Parsons Young Playwrights’ Award 1996.
  • Published by Currency Press.

  • This is our Sydney, the brightest and best of it,
    North to the south to the east and the west of it.
    Bats and cicadas, lawn bowls and the zoo,
    This is our town. Let us share it with you.
  • A playful and vibrantly illustrated picture book that celebrates Sydney in all its diversity – from A to Z.
  • Shortlisted for an Australian Book Industry Award.
  • ‘This instant classic should be on the bookshelf of every Sydney child.’ – Delia Falconer.
  • Published by NewSouth Books [To purchase, go to Publisher]

  • Count as you walk up Numerical Street.
    Every page has a numerical treat.
    Get your pants altered, get your keys cut,
    Open the book before the shops shut.
  • Age range 3 to 8.
  • From the creators of bestselling Alphabetical Sydneycomes a walk up busy Numerical Street, past its laundromats, cake shops, panel beaters and hair salons. A fresh look at familiar shops and businesses, the vibrant illustrations and playful verse of Numerical Street celebrate the jostle and chaos of suburban streetscapes.
  • Published by NewSouth Books [To purchase, go to Publisher]

  • This is a story of Sydney
    In order of who did what first:
    The incidents, places and people,
    All illustrated and versed.
  • Who first pulled a tooth using ether?
    What started the first pistol fight?
    When were the first Chinese tea rooms?
    Where was the first traffic light?
  • Age range 6–9 years.
  • Through a series of (unexpected) ‘firsts’, Hilary Bell and Matthew Martin trace the events, people and places that have shaped their city, however unintentionally. Where else will you find Sydney’s first traffic light sharing pages with its first tightrope walk across Middle Harbour? (And just so you know, it was performed by the marvellous funambulist Henri L’Estrange in 1877.)
  • Published by NewSouth Books [To purchase, go to Publisher]

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