Henry Kelly (He/Him) is one of four playwrights shortlisted for the Queer Playwriting Award 2023 for his play ‘Hell Fire, mortal boys’
“As a queer, transgender man, I am committed to championing queerness through my work.”
We sat down with Tasmanian Actor, theatre maker and writer Henry Kelly, to talk about his work for QPAS (Queer Playwriting Award Showcase) a part of the Midsumma Presents program, a collaboration between Gasworks Arts Park and Midsumma Festival.
Currently based in Naarm/Melbourne, the VCA, BFA Theatre program graduate is changing the theatre industry one play at a time, championing queerness through his work, with a particular drive to spotlight the authentic representation of trans masculine people. Striving to tell stories that are fierce and important, focusing on the interrogation of gender, modern masculinity, and striking visual aesthetics.
What drew you to apply for QPAS?
"I was looking for opportunities to push myself as a writer. I found myself writing a lot for myself, and having mountains of content that never saw the light of day. I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone, and put my work out there as a playwright. QPAS felt like the right space for me to begin, so I submitted it, honestly thinking that nothing would come of it. And here we are!"
“Three celestial beings plan to kill God. Two mortal boys aim to defy God. Worlds subvert in order to play God. But God can’t come to the phone right now.”
Tell us about your play
"Part art installation, part hellscape, where the safety net of red-curtained theatres is constantly challenged. Three bored and spoiled celestials watch two mortal boys as they go about their mortal lives, deciding to meddle in hopes of gaining the attention of their absent father. A journey through space and a single moment. 'HELL FIRE, mortal boys' explores religious ideation, a desperate need for connection, and morality in the wake of annihilation."
What’s the message/s you want to get across with this piece?
"HELL FIRE, mortal boys' explores religious ideation, gender, sexuality, privilege, and the relationship between cruelty and boredom. This work centres on a transmasculine person as they rediscover their relationship to their body, to love, their identity, and their own existence. In all my years involved with theatre, I can count on one hand how many pieces I’ve seen where a transmasculine person is at the centre of the story. Even fewer of these works present fully formed characters exploring their lives, and not just “coming out”. I’m very tired of those stories. As a transgender man, I am passionate about representation, especially authentic, deeply human representation. At its core, this is one of those stories."
Who or what inspires your playwriting?
"I will always go back to the words of Caryl Churchill for inspiration. I am inspired by my life, absurdity, and the poetry of mundanity. I love words, especially nonsensical ones. I write with very clear visuals for the world in mind, so artists like Henry Darger and David Worjnowicz often feed that."
What are your top 3 favourite stage works you’ve seen?
- Julius Caesar at The Bridge Theatre, London, 2018.
- The Chosen Haram by Sadiq Ali, at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 2022.
- I Love You, Goodbye (The Brexit Edition), by Gob Squad, Berlin 2019.
If you win QPAS, what’s the first thing you’d do to celebrate?
"Call my mum and tell her, then splurge on a good bottle of red."
What are your plans beyond the competition?
"More writing, more making. I want to get the script for HELL FIRE, mortal boys to a place where it’s ready to be staged. I always have multiple plates spinning."
Be the first to hear a snippet of 'HELL FIRE, mortal boys' and other plays at the Queer Playwrighting Award Showcase, 23 January 2023.
The Queer Playwriting Award Showcase is part of the Midsumma Presents program, a collaboration between Gasworks Arts Park and Midsumma Festival. QPAS identifies, supports and develops original Australian theatre with a queer focus.
Posted 02 Dec 2022 | Article by Izzie Brownbill