Photograph: by Stephen Henry, 2017
2018: Rice, winner, Australian Writers’ Guild Best Original Stage Play
2018: shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Award, Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting
2018: winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, Drama
2017: presented by Hothouse Theatre, 29 August to 2 September
2017: presented by Griffin Theatre, 21 July to 26 August
2017: presented by Queensland Theatre, 24 June to 16 July
2016: winner of the 2016-17 Queensland Premier’s Drama Award
2015: workshopped through Playwriting Australia’s Rapid Fire workshop and programmed into the National Playwriting Festival
2015: workshopped through The Street Theatre’s First Seen development program
2014: research and first draft, funded through the Literature Section, Australia Council
Presentation – Queensland Theatre, Griffin Theatre and Hothouse Theatre
Director Lee Lewis
Set designer Renee Mulder
Lighting designer Jason Glenwright
Composer/AV Designer Wil Hughes
Associate Sound Designer Tony Brumpton
With performers Kristy Best and Hsiao-Ling Tang
Developments – various
2016: Queensland Premier’s Drama Award, directors Bridget Boyle and Kat Henry, dramaturg Christie Evangelisto, and performers Kristy Best and Meme Thorne
2015: National Playwriting Festival workshop, director Tanya Dickson, dramaturg Jane Bodie, and performers Kristy Best and Meme Thorne
2015: The Street Theatre workshop director Tanya Dickson, dramaturg Peter Matheson and assistant dramaturg Karla Conway, and performers Gowrie Varma and Annette Shun Wah
Full-length play, stage
Rice explores the business of global food production, namely rice, and women in business. There are two main characters. The central character is Nisha. She’s 28, a young and precocious corporate hotshot working as the Executive Officer of Golden Fields, Australia’s biggest rice company. She’s a second generation Indian. Yvette is 61, Chinese; she’s a cleaner in the Golden Fields building. Golden Fields is in Melbourne; Nisha and Yvette play all the other characters.
Nisha is close to sealing a confidential contract with the Indian government, which would see Golden Fields taking over India’s public food distribution systems – rice is a major staple distributed through this system. This secret contract is worth billions. When a flood in one of the southern states in India looks to distract the government and delay the deal, Nisha decides that she needs to go to India to finalise the contract in person, taking with her Graeme, the CEO, and Tom, the marketing manager that Nisha has romantic feelings for.
Yvette’s daughter, Sheree, is facing charges for a protest that resulted in the assault of the CEO of Coles.
The script is available for purchase from Playlab.
Rice propels us into the lives of two protagonists seldom seen on the Australian stage – an older Asian woman and a younger, second-generation Indian woman, both scrambling to make it in the world of commerce. The world of the play is full and complex: big themes such as capitalism and consumer waste, the glass ceiling and mother-daughter relationships, are handled with aplomb. Small touches – type 1 eel herpes – delight. The dialogue is snappy, the characters idiosyncratic, fully relatable and real – as narrow-minded as all people are. A richly rewarding play crafted with finesse. Judges’ report, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2018
Two very different women meet and form an improbable friendship. Nisha is rising through the corporate ranks while Yvette, a cleaner, is trying to save her daughter from gaol following a protest stunt tipping rotten fruit over a supermarket chain executive. With two Asian-Australian women at the fore, this play is a powerful indictment of capitalist values and of how quickly individualism can destroy our relationships. It is also a story of the coming together of people from disparate worlds and how they manage to influence each other, however briefly. This intelligent and hugely ambitious play is terrifically funny, sometimes brutal and at all times deeply human. Reflecting the Australia we live in, Rice wrestles with global dilemmas on a human scale and invites us to re-examine our complicity in the abuse of power. With an excellent control of scale and intimacy, Rice showcases those who are so often invisible and routinely forgotten. Judges’ report, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards
Lee’s often very funny script is filled with crisp one-liners, terrific dialogue and a Brechtian awareness that this is theatrical story¬telling. The Australian
Please take someone with you to see Rice. You are going to want to talk about it afterwards. You are going to want to see it again because it is an important part of the story of Australian theatre. This is the part where you matter. Stage Whispers
The most surprising part of Lee’s play is the support and guidance that these two women manage to provide to one another, without even really trying nor seeking it. That compassion — and the strength that comes from being seen, heard, and understood — is essential to all of us when conflict and difficulty arises in life. Daily Review
Michele Lee’s script is dense and sticky. There’s a lot to digest as there are many ingredients in this pilaff of a play – a heady broth of gender, generation and globalisation… this production of Rice has so many grains of truth about the messiness of life and addresses them honestly, humanly and, often, hilariously. Australian Stage