A natural storyteller

Castlemaine playwright John Romeril has been awarded an OAM for significant service to the performing arts. Photo: Jessie Boylan

Castlemaine playwright John Romeril has been awarded an OAM for significant service to the performing arts. Photo: Jessie Boylan

Storytelling first stirred the imagination of Castlemaine-based playwright John Romeril as a bed-sick child tuning into the radio.

As a lad with asthma, he passed many hours listening to programmes such as the popular ABC Radio national children's show, Argonauts.

Mr Romeril was named in the Queen's Birthday 2017 Honours List, recognised for significant service to the performing arts as a playwright and screenwriter and to theatre companies and education.

"I became a semi-professional amateur and junior writer for the Herald Sun kids page and eventually it morphed into a profession. I'm a theatre animal, I love theatre and realised I could write plays," Mr Romeril said.

Now the chair of Playwriting Australia, formerly with the Australian National Playwright's Centre, Mr Romeril penned more than 80 plays spanning four decades, one of which locals might recall featured in the recent Castlemaine State Festival.

He has also been the recipient of many awards including the Patrick White Award in 2008, the Victorian Government Drama Fellowship in 1988 and the Inaugural Australian National Playwrights Centre Award, 2003, honouring Australian playwrights who have made a significant contribution to national theatre and culture among many.

He said he felt his work was inspired by his family's historic connections to central Victoria and often touched on Australian themes for Australian audiences.

"The landscape has always been a compass setting for me. It's rumoured the first bit of dirt that rose above the primordial ocean was the Darling Downs Murray basin. Australia is an ancient land that people have long walked. I'm inspired by that and the continuing evolution."

His longstanding association in the arts began with contemporary iconic Melbourne Theatre company, La Mama and later the Pram Factory.

He was playwright-in-residence for a range of theatre companies and tertiary institutions including Canberra's Jigsaw Theatre Company, Melbourne's Magpie Theatre, La Mama Theatre Company, Playbox Theatre Company, The Victorian College Of The Arts, Adelaide's Troupe and Hobart's Salamanca Theatre Company.

Currently he is playwright-in-residence with Nuclear Futures, supporting artists working with atomic survivor communities, to bear witness to the legacies of the atomic age.

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