Steve Pirie - Queensland Premier's Drama Award

Steve Pirie wins Queensland Premier’s Drama Award 2020-21

Steve Pirie has been announced as the winner of the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award 2020-21 (QDPA) with his new play entitled ‘Return to the Dirt’.

The Brisbane writer’s work was selected from over 220 entries for the award, with three finalists announced earlier this year, and will guarantee Pirie a professional production of the winning entry in Queensland Theatre’s 2021 season.

‘Return to the Dirt’ is described as a powerful, and gently humorous, mediation on what it means to die in the 21st century and what a final act of love can do for our healing. The play introduces you to Steve, a struggling artist who — after a long stint of unemployment —finds work as a funeral director. Using Gen-Y wit and pop-culture homage, the story takes you through the realms of the dead and behind the closed doors of the Australian funeral industry.

Queensland Theatre’s Artistic Director, Lee Lewis, was part of the judging panel and described the play as one of the best she’s read in a number of years.

Steve Pirie’s play Return to the Dirt is a revelation,” Lewis said.

It is one of the best new Australian plays I have read in the last five years. He has done what all great writers do… bravely transform personal experience into a story so that we are willing to imagine into the scariest of places. This play is emotionally rich, humane, startlingly funny, spiritually sophisticated and deeply honest.”
‘Return to the Dirt’ aims to be a celebration of finding your place in the world, with the power of personal redemption and humility at the end of all things. Lewis went on to say that this story is exactly what audiences need to hear and see.
“In these strange and difficult times, this is the kind of writing we need to inspire us,” said Lewis.
“I have not been so deeply moved by a play in years. Our playwrights are our national treasures and great stories are hived in every corner of this great country – this is a story set in Toowoomba which will speak to the world about how we, as humans, value a life.  I can’t wait to share it with our audience on the Queensland Theatre stage next year”.
For Pirie, the work hits closer to home and was inspired by his real experiences of working in a funeral home in 2014.
“I hope this play is a stepping-stone to one of the most important conversations you need to have,” Pirie said.

Pirie’s work was selected ahead of fellow finalists Anna Loren for ‘Comfort’ and Maddie Nixon for her work ‘Binnavale’. Delivered through Queensland Theatre, the QPDA is a prestigious and important award for Australian theatre. Lewis noted that the competition is significant and shines a light on the talented creatives in our industry.

“The QPDA is the largest playwriting award in the country,” Lewis said.

“The significance of guaranteeing a production to the winning play cannot be overstated. For every playwright in the country, the QPDA offers a career-changing opportunity. Working with the Queensland Government to shine a huge light on the extraordinary writing talent we have in this country is both inspiring and exciting”, Lewis said.

Queensland Premier's Drama Award
Anna Loren, Steve Pirie and Maddie Nixon
Queensland Premier’s Drama Award
Photography – Glenn Hunt

The QPDA was launched in 2002, and through it, Queensland Theatre has developed 31 new Australian plays, employed over 220 actors, writers and directors, and fostered audiences of more than 34,500 to engage with new theatre works. Previous winning works include ‘The Holidays’ by David Megarrity (2018–19), ‘Rice’ by Michele Lee (2016–17), ‘Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’ by Daniel Evans (2014–15), ‘Trollop’ by Maxine Mellor (2012–13) and ‘Fractions’ by Marcel Dorney (2010–11).

Judges for the 2020–21 Awards include Ms Christine Castley, Deputy Director-General in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet; Ms Lee Lewis, Artistic Director of Queensland Theatre; Ms Nadine McDonald-Dowd, Executive Producer, Queensland Performing Arts Centre; and Ms Jennifer Medway, Literary Associate, Melbourne Theatre Company.

The QPDA is an initiative of Queensland Theatre with the support of the Queensland Government.

For more information about Queensland Theatre, visit their website.

Related Articles