The Zap
Kirsty Marillier

“And so I run. And as the sun tilts over the suburb and light catches glow on the train line I run home. Because there’s something about reaching Saskia that feels really, really right.” 

When Helix High’s acclaimed sprinter – Saskia Desilva – is rumoured to have set an entire toilet block on fire, a whole community is shaken. From soggy ovals to internet wormholes to out-of-bounds buildings, an unassuming student digs up old truths in the name of Saskia’s legacy. Will she succeed? Or will she become collateral damage? 

THE ZAP is a play of power and potential, resistance and resilience, ambition and fitting in. A high intensity, radical romp imagining our very near future, intersectional feminism and fake ass news. 

Kirsty Marillier is a South African / Australian, award-winning playwright and actor. She is best known for her two works: ORANGE THROWER – which had its 2022 stage premiere with Griffin Theatre Company and National Theatre of Parramatta. ORANGE THROWER was the winner of the Rodney Seaborn Playwrights Award (2019) and the Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting (2022)

THE ZAP – winner of the Max Afford Playwrights Award (2020) and runner-up of the Shane and Cathryn Brennan Prize (2022).  Creative developments and residencies:  ‘THE JUMP’ (Brainstorm, Fremantle Media, 2021), ‘ORANGE THROWER’ (Rough Draft, Sydney Theatre Company, 2019). Studio Artist Residency (Griffin Theatre, 2020), Besen Writers Group (Malthouse Theatre Company, 2018). BLACK INC BOOKS: GROWING UP AFRICAN (2018). Acting credits: HOME AND AWAY (Seven Network), THE GREENHOUSE (Netflix), HOME, I’M DARLING (Sydney Theatre Co), HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD (Michael Cassel Group), COMA LAND (Black Swan State Theatre), A MID SUMMER NIGHTS DREAM, THE TEMPEST (Sport For Jove Theatre).

Introducing playwright Kirsty Marillier

What inspired you to write this play?

I began writing this play at the height of the pandemic in 2020. It was our second lockdown, it felt like theatre was dying around me and the future of this career path felt particularly uncertain.

My parents are both teachers and I became aware of the difficulties of school life during this cursed time. My brain couldn’t fathom how freaking full on it must be to be a teenager while the world was in complete disarray.

In response, I set myself the task of writing the most theatrical play I could think of, using my own lived experience as a 2nd culture kid as a springboard. I thought about facets of theatre I love most (ensemble sequences, chorus work, fun character doubling) and dreamed up a fictional secondary school called Helix High.

I knew there would two black girls at the centre. I knew it would be fast. And I knew there would be a fire.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey as a playwright?

For me, playwriting started around 4 years ago (in 2018). I was just about to move to Melbourne to commence working on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I was on the precipice of starting this massive job, and after reading Zadie Smiths ‘Swing Time’ I had a sudden urge to write my first play. I confided in a close writer friend about this scary prospect, and he pushed and prodded until I put pen to paper for the first time in 6 years.

That play became my debut work – Orange Thrower – which premiered in 2022 at Griffin Theatre Company and National Theatre of Parramatta. This work also won the Rodney Seaborn Playwrights Award and the Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting and is now available to view digitally through Australian Theatre Live.

Essentially, I’ve been hooked on writing plays ever since. Currently I’m a part of the Emerging Writers Group over at Sydney Theatre Company and have a new play in development with one of the Australian main stages. I’ve been lucky enough to have loads of support along the way; having participated in residencies and developments with Griffin Theatre Company, Sydney Theatre Company, Belvoir St Theatre, Malthouse Theatre Company, Darlinghurst Theatre, and Playwriting Australia.

What or who inspires you as a writer and why do you want to write for the stage?

Depending on the project, my inspo can spring from anywhere. Sometimes a dream or retained memory. Sometimes an outlandish thing my South African mother has said. Sometimes a family D R A M A. I’ve also always been deeply interested in the work of other black playwrights. I love Branden Jacob-Jenkins, Jackie Sibblies Jury and Aleshea Harris. Some of my favourite plays are Dance Nation by Clare Barron, Slave Play by Jeremy O’Harris and 7 Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner by Jasmine Lee-Jones.

Honestly, I see playwriting as the most thrilling thing in the world. Writing for stage has allowed me to be vulnerable in a way I didn’t think possible. It’s also allowed me to be brave – brave and vulnerable at the same time.

What do you think about the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting and, more specifically, the anonymity at the heart of the Prize? 

It’s stunning that an opportunity is available like this on an international scale. I’ve never been to the UK but have always been curious about how theatre works over there – I’ve just literally never had the opportunity to make that leap. For an Australian writer, an award like this creates access. I’m just so happy that my big/little play has found itself in the shortlisted mix.

The anonymity of the Bruntwood feels special. Not sure if I’m allowed to mention my hot pseudonym but she allowed me to submit my work without internal judgement and fear. Anonymity means the judges are looking at the play as a stand-alone piece, without any preconceived ideas of who the writers are. That feels freeing.

How do you feel about being shortlisted?

Truly shocked.