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The Performance

2022 - Shortlisted


Judges' Comments 

Perhaps the whole of our lives is a performance. That is one of the many ideas Claire Thomas toys with as she explores the interior lives of three women attending a performance of Beckett’s Happy Days while bushfires rage outside. Margot, married for over 40 years and a successful academic, reflects on her marriage and her career. Twenty-something Summer is anxious — about the environment, her own heritage, and how to lead an ethical life. The outwardly poised Ivy is wracked with grief at a devastating loss. 

This is a deeply engaging work, bristling with energy, powerful characters and intellectual heft. Beckett’s heroine, buried in a rising mound of dirt, demonstrates the capacity to endure almost unbearable hardship. She provides a telling counterpoint to the women’s search for meaning, connection and relevance in their experiences of motherhood, relationships, aging and loss. This is a clever, urgent and ultimately hopeful work.