Paul BrownPlaywright

Paul writes across mediums, including plays, TV and film scripts and songs. Paul works as a creative producer, primarily in the field of community arts and cultural development (CACD). He has written and collaborated on verbatim plays, large outdoor community theatre works, episodes for television series, films, street theatre and plays for main stage companies.

With Newcastle Workers Action Committee, he authored Aftershocks, Australia’s first full length verbatim play, about the Newcastle earthquake (Condor Award and Critics Circle Award Finalist). His other verbatim plays include Half a Life, made with veterans of nuclear bomb testing (AWGIE finalist Best Community Play), Room 207 Nikola Tesla, about harnessing electricity as the climate changes, and Crowded World, a collaboration with theatre workers and environmental activists in New Delhi.

Paul’s film and television experience includes scripting the award-winning film version of Aftershocks (AWGIE for Best Adaptation, Nomination for NSW Premiers Literary Award, AFI Winner Best Actor in a TV Drama, AFI Nomination Best Tele-feature). He also wrote Down the Slot for the TV series Big Sky, and Blindside Breakaway for the ABC series Naked: stories of Men (AFI Nomination Best TV mini-series), and he co-wrote and produced Sixty Thousand Barrels, a documentary for SBS Television about a community struggling with toxic waste in their midst, with multiple releases at environmental film festivals and wide use as an educational resource.

Paul’s Sydney-based company Alphaville produces arts projects and films and leads creative developments and arts-based research. Across 2014-17, Alphaville was the Creative Producer for Nuclear Futures: Exposing the Legacy of the Atomic Age through Creative Arts. This international multi-arts program brought together more than 30 artists with atomic survivor communities, developing 22 collaborative projects. This included Australia’s sculpture in the Nagasaki Peace Park, gifted by Anangu communities, and ultimately a major exhibition titled Nuclear at Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute.

For Nuclear, Paul led a multi-arts team experimenting with immersive digital projections for viewing inside a large projection arena – creating two innovative films: 10 Minutes to Midnight, and Ngurini (Searching). Since 2020, Paul has been the Eco-Arts developer for the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute – and he led the Recovery project linking artists and citizen scientists in response to fire and climate change.

In 2021 he holds a Synapse residency supported by the Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT) – an arts-science collaboration with Paul as writer/producer, visual artist Linda Dement, and scientist Carmine Gentile, titled Heart.

There is also an academic strand to Paul’s work – drawing together his earth science background and his research in the fields of Science & Technology Studies and Environment & Society. His books and papers concern technology and society, and the relationships between creative arts and environmental science.

Paul’s Books include Verbatim: staging memory and community; Conservation in a Crowded World edited with John Merson and Rosie Cooney; Landscape, Place and Culture: linkages between Australia and India edited with Deb Bandyopadhay, and Art and Wellbeing co-authored with Deborah Mills for the Australia Council for the Arts.

Amateur Licence Form

Plays and Films

Verbatim play by Paul Brown and Newcastle Workers Action Committee. Script published by Currency Press.

The staff of the club are re-living the earthquake and the collapse of the Club –mourning the dead. As the stories of bravery, rescue, fear and anger weave towards their climax, we encounter the extremities of human behaviour within the community that is the Club. The play is the experience of people who speak with authority and remarkable good humour on how we might all face uncontrollable and tragic circumstances.

Aftershocks is considered Australia’s first full length verbatim play, made from transcribed interviews with workers and patrons of the Newcastle Workers Club following the 1989 Newcastle earthquake. The play’s premiere season was for the Hunter Valley Theatre Company in 1991. Key remount seasons were at Belvoir Street Theatre 2003, with Jeremy Sims in the role of John Constable, and Melbourne Theatre Company in 1995. It has since been widely presented by regional companies, schools and communities.

“A play that redefines the essence of theatre… stories about danger and fear and death and anger and courage and pettiness and stupidity. These tales are often told with a wry sense of humour that makes you laugh, or a totally unblinkered honesty that makes you cry… a landmark in Australian theatre.” Brian Hoad, The Bulletin, 3/8/93, on Aftershocks the play.

Aftershocks won the Condor Award for Best New Play, and was runner-up for the 2004 Critics Circle Award. The play has been much commented upon, since it introduced the verbatim theatre form to Australian audiences. Aftershocks is included as a chapter in Veronica Kelly’s Our Australian Theatre of the 1990s, and has been the subject of several other books and many papers. The play has featured in the NSW High School Drama curriculum for the HSC.

A comic trilogy with music, concerning new technology and social and political struggle in coal mining communities in Queensland, Death Defying Theatre and the Miner’s Federation of Australia Collinsville Branch, Collinsville.

Verbatim stage play by Paul Brown

It is the Cold War. Young servicemen are keen to honour their countries, and Britain ‘needs to have its bomb’. The Australian Prime Minister, besotted by a newly crowned young Queen, hastily signs over to Britain a tract of Australian desert for bomb testing. Travelling from all parts of Australia, and from Britain, young men set out on a spree. The desert posting is remote and dusty, although the food, the booze and the leisure time are plentiful and uniforms are not compulsory. Fifty years later, those same young men have unusual health problems, and their wives and families nurse them through it, as their dark tales of the desert start to emerge. Back in the 1950s, the men prepare for the latest tests, in the company of the ‘boffin’ scientists. They construct towers for the bombs, and experiments involving fake towns, military equipment, mannequins and live goats tethered in the line of fire. As they work in the ‘hot zones’, complex and sometimes ignored protocols ‘protect’ them from radiation exposure. Some will encounter the horror of Aboriginal families caught in the blasts. As their tour of duty nears its end, one more blast is made ready. Nothing prepares the men for the beauty and the power of the bomb. They watch with their backs to the blast and their hands across their eyes, seeing their own bones x-rayed by the intense light. And nothing has prepared them for the aftermath of the experiments, which continue to play out in their ill health and changed lives.

Half a Life is based on recorded testimonies of Britain’s and Australia’s Nuclear Veterans, revealing the hidden history of bomb testing at Maralinga between 1956 and 1967. Performances include Leeds, Central Coast and Sydney. The 2006 production was runner up in the Australian Writers Guild Annual Awards, for Community Theatre. The Half a Life project is the subject of international analysis of political and community theatre (See Bill Cleveland’s Art and Upheaval).

With a title that in English translates as ‘The Café of the Storyteller’, this play was developed and performed with Arab Australians about the first Gulf War, set in Sydney’s western suburbs; for Death Defying Theatre (Urban Theatre Projects), Sydney.

An environmentalist play for performance in, across and beside the Murray River: about engineering and ecology, Murray River Performing Group, Albury.

SYNOPSIS: This large scale community play about the ecology of Australia’s largest river, was put together by the Albury based Murray River Performing Group (now Hothouse Theatre), and performed at Mungabareena, an Aboriginal meeting place on the Murray in March 1988 (Australia’s Bicentennial year). Dozens of local organisations contributed to the project. Apart from professional theatre workers, there were scientists, anglers, farmers, conservation group members, tourism operators, journalists, bird observers, industrialists, students, drug rehabilitation inmates, bureaucrats and local politicians who all became involved. The play tells the story of a new settler on the Murray who, with her husband a homecoming WWII soldier, tries to establish a modest farm in the era of rapid engineering development along the river. They become embroiled in the contest between two modernising forces – the engineers/irrigators wanting to dam, weir and drain the river to within an inch of its life, and the tourism developers whose dream is a series of permanent picturesque lakes. The performance, which featured a cast of sixty and up to two hundred other people involved behind the scenes, grappled with the threats to river ecosystems, in the guise of a love story.

Stage performance and Installation of electrical experiments and magic tricks. Producer Thor Blomfield and Director Patrick Nolan; for X-Ray Theatre, Sydney.

This immersive production is for performance inside a large Faraday cage, and contains ‘live’ scientific experiments with electrical current. The play takes key moments in the largely forgotten life of Nikola Tesla, inventor of alternating current and key antagonist in the ‘War of the Currents’ in the late 1800s. It is technically demanding play. First there is a maze, which the audience visits before and after the show, and possibly at interval. Second, the audience enters a laboratory space, and when the actors appear, there are scenes and magic tricks that convey events and impressions of Tesla’s life amidst live recreations of Tesla’s experiments, set around the turn of the Twentieth Century. Here the spoken text is primarily a broadcast of Tesla’s own words, accompanied by music and soundscapes. The third type of performance is presented in ‘Interludes’, which are set amongst the energy politics of modern day Australia, and bring to life ‘verbatim’ the stories of real inventors and engineers. Why was Tesla forgotten? Was it because of his personality, or because he was an ‘alien’ in American society? Was it because of his ‘dangerous’ inventions, or was it what he had to say about humanity? The story of Nikola Tesla plumbs many of the great themes of human existence: genius, success, fame, sexual desire, obsession, truth, love and grief. But it is the impact that Tesla’s inventions have had on our lives, which makes the tale compelling as we contemplate new energy futures.

Seasons at Newtown Theatre (2003) and Canberra Theatre (2004).

“A meditation on Tesla’s ideas and a reminder that the technology we all take for granted has a complex, contested and fascinating history… what beautiful, riveting and terrifying magic Tesla’s technology makes.” Stephen Dunne Sydney Morning Herald 22/8/03, on Room 207 Nikola Tesla

Verbatim play by Paul Brown, Sohaila Kapur, Meenakshi Nath, and Jyotsna Sharma, in collaboration with Katyayani Theatre Group, New Delhi.

Stories performed as parables for a crowded world and a troubled city. The city reveals its worst excesses, visiting upon Sunita’s New Delhi house an unwanted ‘demon guest’. Using two languages, English and Punjabi, a family’s story unfolds, with bawdy improvised Punjabi folk songs, comic plays within the play, and puppetry that animates everyday objects. Although the house seems sheltered from the brutality of the city, not all is well within. “Somewhere a little rot sets in, something that needs your attention. Something that if left unchecked can make your house as murky as the city outside.” Sunita and her daughters Lata and Meera must take the actions necessary to protect their own hospitable hearts, the land they occupy and their children’s future.

Crowded World: Parables of the House is currently in development for Sydney performances.

A musical play for performance at Albury’s Memorial Bowl, about the politics of decentralisation, the Albury Wodonga Growth Centre, and competitive games; for the Murray River Performing Group, Albury.

Experimental theatre concerning the technologies of punishment and imprisonment, based on Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, Death Defying Theatre, Sydney

Scriptwriter: Paul Brown; Director Geoff Burton; feature film based on the play Aftershocks  by Paul Brown and the Workers Cultural Action Committee, Aftershocks Films, (first screened on SBS Television 29 December).

When the Workers Club was destroyed by an earthquake, the remains of food, supplies of beer, poker machines, useable furniture, other equipment and memorabilia were removed to an adjacent warehouse. There the staff of the club are re-living the earthquake, and the collapse of the Club, and they are mourning the dead. As the stories of bravery, fear and anger weave towards their climax, we encounter the extremities of human behaviour within the community that is the Club. This is the experience of people who speak with authority and remarkable good humour on how we might all face uncontrollable and tragic circumstances. As for the young cleaner John Constable (Jeremy Sims), we discover how single minded heroic action begets a flood of complex emotions – heroes after all must be rescued themselves.

“The film’s writer Paul Brown takes his boots off and wades right in… it is a terrific record of the Australian vernacular, with tales of bravery and hilarity unfolding as naturally as two people having a yarn over the back fence… a riveting record of how a group of people behave in a crisis” .Ali Gripper, Sydney Morning Herald 3/1/99, on Aftershocks film version.

Paul Brown was Winner Australian Writers Guild Award for best Telemovie adaptation 1998. The film was a finalist for the NSW Premiers Literary Award 1999. In that year, Jeremy Sims also won AFI Best Lead Actor in a Television Drama for his role as John Constable, and the film was nominated for Best Telefeature.

Scriptwriter: Paul Brown; Episode 3 of Naked: Stories of Men, ABC Television and Jan Chapman Productions. Stars Simon Baker.

A boy watches his father – the captain of the rugby union team, the Dirty Reds – grapple with defeat. Despite new training methods from motivation camps to yoga, the club has posted ninety-seven consecutive losses. For a man supposedly in charge, does losing mean emasculation, or can there be leadership where it seems there may never be victories? What makes and unmakes a hero? How and why do ordinary men seek dignity and power through team sport?

“Paul Brown mined his teenage rugby days for Blindside Breakaway, which unravels the confusing threads linking team spirit and personal loyalty… [the series] makes for extraordinary viewing. Created with care and intelligence.” Michael Fitzgerald, Time 4/3/96, on the television series Naked, Stories of Men.

Documentary film. 52 minutes.

Scriptwriter: Paul Brown; Director: Jane Castle. Documentary film about toxic waste and community participation in Botany. SBS Independent, Film Finance Corporation and Alphaville Pty Ltd, Sydney.

“A grand example of what is possible when documentary makers understand not only the topic, but also the human players in a battle.” Steve Waldon, The Age 30/5/03 on Sixty Thousand Barrels.

Documentary that tells of a multi-national chemical company and local residents in Botany, on the south side of Sydney, who are all working together to find a way to treat a stockpile of toxic hexachlorobenzene waste, through a unique form of community participation. Features the remarkable life story of Nancy Hillier, local activist who led struggles against over development around Botany Bay for over forty years.

Immersive film for 360 degree projection inside a large cylindrical arena.

Researcher, co-writer and producer Paul Brown, story by Mima Smart and Russell Bryant, written, directed and edited by Jessie Boylan, music and soundscape by Luke Harrald, animations by Linda Dement. For Alphaville and Yalata community..

Using photo-media, screen art, immersive projection, eyewitness testimony and community commentary, Ngurini (searching) explores the forced relocation and intergenerational response of Pitjantjatjara Anangu in the aftermath of Britain’s atomic testing at Maralinga in South Australia. It embodies community stories of landscape and migration, and is inspired by the resilience and hopes of current generations. This work is a culmination of a community-based arts project with Pitjantjatjara Anangu from Yalata and Oak Valley, who were relocated from traditional lands and the Ooldea Mission, from 1952 when Britain commenced its nuclear testing program in Australia. Alphaville’s visiting artists worked at Yalata for two years in collaboration with local artists.

Installations at The Block, Brisbane, Screengrab Townsville, and Tandanya Aboriginal Cultural Institute, Adelaide

Immersive film for 360 degree projection inside a large cylindrical arena.

Producer Paul Brown, directed and edited by Teresa Crea, technical direction by Nic Mollison, project management by Ellise Barkley, music and soundscape by Luke Harrald, animations by Linda Dement. Features historian and nuclear veteran Avon Hudson. For Alphaville and Balaklava community.

The culmination of a collaborative partnership with representatives from Australian nuclear veteran communities. The creative team worked as artists in residence over 18 months in the south Australian rural community of Balaklava, a place subjected to wind-blown contamination from British nuclear tests, and also home to long time nuclear veteran campaigner Avon Hudson. Taking its name from the ‘Doomsday Clock’ posted by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 10 Minutes to Midnight uses archival footage of Britain’s nuclear testing program at Maralinga, Emu Field and Montebello Islands, interwoven with photo-media, animation and eyewitness testimony.

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