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Encyclopedia > Van Badham

Van Badham is a playwright known as the "enfant terrible" of Australian theatre. She writes radical left-wing dramas and comedies. A playwright, also known as a dramatist, is someone who writes dramatic literature or drama. ... In politics, left-wing, political left, leftism, or simply the left, are terms which refer (with no particular precision) to the segment of the political spectrum typically associated with any of several strains of socialism, social democracy, or liberalism (especially in the American sense of the word), or with opposition...




Van Badham was born Vanessa Badham in Sydney in 1978 (apparently). Her mother and father worked in the New South Wales gaming and track industry, with her father eventually working for the registered club industry as a publican. An only child, her family moved around a lot during her childhood and she grew up immersed in an adult culture whose currencies were betting, drinking and sports.

The influence of her unusual upbringing was evident in work presented to her teachers at school; perhaps apocryphally, a story circulates that Badham's first script was a second grade assignment to write up the class Nativity Play, which she duly set in the beer garden of a public house with Mary and Joseph ejected by a manager for failing to meet dress regulations.


An observant but shy child, Badham's parents enrolled her in Sydney's Philip Street Theatre drama school to improve her confidence. At Philip Street she was tutored by Darrell Hilton, a respected and well-known acting teacher whose previous students included Nicole Kidman. Encouraged by Hilton to develop her writing for the stage, on graduation from high school Badham was admitted into the Creative Writing programme at the University of Wollongong. Nicole Kidman at the Cannes Film Festival in 2001 Nicole Mary Kidman, AC (born June 20, 1967) is an Academy Award-winning American-born Australian actress. ... The University of Wollongong is a medium sized University accommodating approximately 21,000 students in the city of Wollongong, Australia. ...

While a student she began to publish poetry and short fiction as well as write student dramas. At university, however, her political awareness flowered and she was drawn into involvement with student politics and left-wing activism, and she was elected editor of the University of Wollongong student newspaper, Tertangala. By 1998, Badham was an avowed anarchist and President of the National Union of Students, caucusing with the radical group known as the Non-Aligned Left. The Tertangala is the magazine of the University of Wollongong Student Association. ... Anarchism is a generic term describing various political philosophies and social movements that advocate the elimination of hierarchy and imposed authority. ... National Union of Students may refer to: National Union of Students of Australia National Union of Students of the United Kingdom This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ... The Non-Aligned Left was a left wing student union faction within the Australian National Union of Students. ...

Early career

Bruised by the National Union of Students' notorious factional brawling, Badham withdrew from organised political activity to return to campus life and her writing in 1999. That year, she won the Naked Theatre Company's first "Write Now!" play competition and with it both a production of her winning play, The Wilderness of Mirrors, at the Sydney Theatre Company's Wharf studio and mentoring from established Australian playwrights Nick Enright and David Williamson. David Williamson (born 19 February 1942) is one of Australias most well-known playwrights who has also developed screenplays for film and television. ...

The success of The Wilderness of Mirrors (a play about secret service infiltration of an activist organisation, based on Badham' experiences in the NUS) brought her to public attention and she began to stage more work across Australia. By 2001, however, her radical themes and attacks on the Australian establishment had won her little favour with the prevailing conservative political climate in her home country and she relocated to the United Kingdom, initially studying at the University of Sheffield. The University of Sheffield is a leading university, located in Sheffield, UK. // History The University of Sheffield was originally formed by the merger of three colleges. ...

Move to UK

In the UK, Badham's writing was discovered by the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, who staged Kitchen, her UK premiere, in 2001. Kitchen - a play about marriage as a metaphor for capitalism - was toured to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival by the student Nabokov company in 2002, where it became an instant, if unexpected, hit. The Crucible Theatre, located in the city centre of Sheffield, England is known for being a producing theatre, meaning shows are designed and rehearsed in-house. ... Categories: Festival stubs | Edinburgh ...

Commissions from the Royal Court Theatre and the BBC World Service followed, as did transfers of Kitchen to London and New York as well as five subsequent Edinburgh productions in 2003-2005; Camarilla and Bedtime for Bastards (2003), Nikolina and the subversive children's musical Waitin' 4 Da G (2004 - with music by Jonny Berliner) and Petrograd (2005). The Royal Court Theatre is a non-commercial theatre in Sloane Square, in the Chelsea area of London noted for its contributions to modern theatre. ... World Service logo The BBC World Service is one of the most widely recognised international broadcasters of radio programming, transmitting in 33 languages to around 150 million people throughout the world. ...

Camarilla was a critical sensation at the 2003 festival and led to the cementing of Badham's sudden international reputation as a leading proponent of radical political theatre. Badham has since won numerous international awards and her work is now performed all over the world.


Van Badham's plays are typically concerned with the legacy of personal and political violence, critiques of Western consumer capitalism, dichotomies of middle- and working-class values, the assigned roles of women in Western Society and the relationship of art to history. Capitalism is commonly understood to mean an economic or socioeconomic system in which the means of production are predominantly privately owned and operated for profit, often through the employment of labour. ...

Van Badham's other plays include: We Met at the Demo (1996), Thrown to Earth (1997), Dole Diary (2001), Material Girls (2003), Still Life with a Dead Artist (2004), Letters to W (2004), Bang on the Nerve (2004), Persae (2005), Black Hands / Dead Section (2005) and The Gabriels (2006), as well as numerous short works and radio dramas.

External links

  • Van Badham entry at doollee.com
  • Royal Court Theatre / BBC World Service Webs We Weave Project
  • Van Badham scripts held by the Australian Script Centre
  • Camarilla by Van Badham



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