Driven to distraction, then excellence

July 25, 2011

A harrowing play had such a profound effect on a Murdoch University lecturer that she was compelled to write a paper about the production – a paper that has now won her a prestigious award.

English and Creative Arts lecturer, Dr Helena Grehan, said Aalst was based on real-life events that happened in the town of Aalst in Belgium where parents Luc de Winne and Maggie Strobbe murdered their two children, aged seven and three months, in a hotel room in 1999.

“I found the play so disturbing that it compelled me to write about it. I wanted to figure out what made this a worthwhile project and more importantly to explore what kinds of ethical questions the work raised for spectators,” Dr Grehan said.

“So the paper really explores what theatre can do and how it might get us to think differently about something that we may have heard about or seen on the news but not actually really understood or imagined.”

The paper, Aalst: Acts of Evil, Ambivalence and Responsibility was published in the academic journal Theatre Research International in 2010 and has won The Australasian Drama Studies’ Marlis Theirsch Prize for excellence in an English-language article in theatre, drama or performance studies anywhere in the world.

“I am humbled and very pleased to know that such a paper, which was about a very difficult and harrowing play, made sense and was deemed to be worthwhile by my peers,” Dr Grehan said.

Aalst was originally written by a Belgian company and was for the most part based on trial transcripts and a documentary with the mother. It was translated by Duncan Mclean of the National Theatre of Scotland and brought to Perth as part of the Perth International Arts Festival.

Dr Grehan’s paper can be accessed online via the Murdoch University catalogue.

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