Master of Applied Theatre Studies student and proud Palawa man, Dylan Van Den Berg, recently won the 2021 Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting. Congratulations on this fantastic achievement Dylan.

The Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting is a $30,000 prize that is awarded annually by the State Library of NSW to recognise a new Australian play that demonstrates contemporary resonance and dramaturgical innovation.

Dylan received this prestigious award for his play Milk, which was described by the Nick Enright Prize judges as a “strikingly original work occupying dual time zones spanning two centuries, with three unnamed Aboriginal characters negotiating the impacts of colonisation”.

The judges then went on to praise Milk and Dylan’s masterful writing, describing the play as “symphonic in construction, with deeply human characters, and one that expertly guides the audience through tragedy and loss to a poignant end. A fresh and genuinely exhilarating theatrical voice.”

When describing what receiving the prize means for him, Dylan exclaimed his delight and surprise at receiving the Prize. “I haven’t really won a proper trophy before, and so I’m probably due a trip to IKEA for a nice shelf. In real terms though, winning a NSW Premiers Literary Award affords me the time and space to get started on my next play without the usual pressures.”

Despite his quip and humble nature, Dylan is quite acclaimed as a writer; in recent years Dylan’s work has won the Griffin Award and been shortlisted for the Qld Premier’s Drama Award and STC’s Patrick White Award.

As mentioned, Milk is an evocative play that showcases an Indigenous Australian voice and experience. Dylan had much to say about how his play explores cultural concerns, such as colonisation, and what these themes mean to him.

Milk reflects the complex private struggles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living out bifurcated identities. Descendent from both resilient blackfellas and violent colonisers, how do you go about reconciling with the blood running through your veins? For some time now, an often unspoken consequence of colonisation has been that it causes the colonised to turn inwards against themselves and feel distinctly insecure as they walk the tightrope between their Aboriginality and immersion in whitefella society. Milk is an invitation to audiences to consider the role they play in the ongoing colonisation of this country we call Australia, and how they might contribute to reconciliation. As with most things, this process must start with the individual.” 

During an interview with UNE Life in 2020 when Dylan was shortlisted for the Sydney Theatre Company’s Patrick White Award, he provided some insights into what it is like to receive this kind of recognition for his writing.

“Putting your work out there can feel like a vulnerable thing to do, but it’s so important as you never know who might read it, or the kind of feedback that might come your way. I’ve spent a number of years working on my writing, seeing as much theatre as possible, and trying to tell stories that I feel might resonate with audiences.”

When discussing what is next, Dylan noted that he is looking forward to the upcoming debut of Milk from June 3-12, and seeing how far the play can go.

“Rehearsals for Milk have commenced at The Street Theatre in Canberra, with a fabulous cast including Roxanne McDonald and Katie Beckett. It’s also being published by Currency Press later this year. What’s next? Broadway, I reckon!”

If you would like to find more details about Milk, take a look here.