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Contributor profile: Stephen Carleton

Stephen Carleton Stephen Carleton
courtesy the writer

I began writing (and reviewing) for the theatre during student days at La Trobe University, Melbourne and was part of a queer political theatre collective called Gudrun’s Stockings that did work at La Mama, Midsumma and elsewhere. I formed Knock-em-Down Theatre in Darwin in 1997 with Gail Evans (we have since been joined by Mary Anne Butler) and have been writing professionally for the stage in Queensland, the NT and indeed nationally ever since. Career highlights include winning the Patrick White Playwrights’ Award in 2005 for my play Constance Drinkwater and the Final Days of Somerset and the New York New Dramatists Fellowship in 2006. These days I am based in Brisbane where I am currently head of Drama at UQ and teach across our broad historical program. Areas of research in my writing for the stage, my critical reviewing and my scholarly work include cultural geography, Australian theatre studies, Gothic theatre studies and postcolonial theatre.


I’m describing myself first and foremost as a cultural geographer these days. This is a result, perhaps, of growing up in regional Australia (Far North Queensland and Darwin), where there was absolutely no literature, theatre, visual art, film or TV on the school curriculum that depicted the part of the country that I grew up in. Ray Lawler’s cane fields and Nicolas Roeg’s screen outback were the closest I ever got to a recognisable Australia during my early education. I resolved at a relatively early age—as a teenager, I reckon—to be part of the solution and to dedicate myself to ‘mapping’ my North Australia through critical and creative praxis.

It’s a genuine passion and lifelong commitment for me to see North Australian creative and cultural content build and take its place in the national conversation, whether my role in that process be as playwright, theatre critic, academic researcher or dramaturg of other writers’ practice. I am deeply interested in writers and performance makers who interrogate the geographical and political context in which they are generating work. This connectivity with audiences, location and the polity at large seems so much more vital to me than solipsistic and esoteric self-reflection or the communication of nothing to no one. That potentially sounds like a mundane statement of the self-evident, but I guess what I’m saying is that my passion is for live performance that seeks out an audience for an intelligent, adult conversation about the world from which it has been germinated. I’m also happy for comedy, satire and wit to be part of that interrogation.

Recent articles

Mercenary or hero?
Stephen Carleton: QTC, Mother Courage and Her Children
RealTime issue #116 Aug-Sept 2013 p44

Embracing the world
Stephen Carleton: Brisbane Powerhouse, World Theatre Festival
RealTime issue #114 April-May 2013 p45

Staging the really virtual
Stephen Carleton: A Hoax, La Boite; Making The Green One Red, QUT
RealTime issue #109 June-July 2012 p30

Reviews of Stephen Carleton’s Constance Drinkwater and the Final Days of Somerset
Regenerative inversions
Douglas Leonard
RealTime issue #75 Oct-Nov 2006 p8

NT’s festive season
Suzanne Spunner, 2007 Darwin Festival
RealTime issue #81 Oct-Nov 2007 p6

© Stephen Carleton; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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