Through the Playwrights-in-Residence program Playlab Theatre commissions playwrights to develop a work for production.

Lasting as long as a work needs, playwrights are provided with the guidance and resources necessary for a rigorous, inspired process of adventure and discovery, in pursuit of excellence.

As part of the residency, a playwright may take on a mentoring role with a young playwright (who will become a young playwright-in-residence), passing on insights and craft to another generation.


Brutal Utopias by Stephen Carleton

1971. The height of the Cold War. The Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia is opening up to Western tourism after breaking away from the Soviet Bloc. Branislav and Valentina Radovic have been commissioned to design an arcadian hotel complex for the government after forging an international reputation for designing ultra-modern concrete structures.

A small delegation from Indonesia has arrived to address the rift that is developing between the Nations. Suharto’s wife Tien, inspired by the work of the Radovic’s, requests they design a grand theme park that embraces all the cultures of the Indonesian republic, triggering the Radovic’s lofty utopian political and architectural ideals.

Present-day. New York City. A talented Australian environmental architect, Natalia Silverman, has been asked to join the team designing New York’s ‘Big U’ – the sea wall mitigation project that will cradle Manhattan’s financial district from rising sea levels. But isn’t building a sea wall around the world’s iconic home of big business an inherent admission of environmental failure and defeat? Is she saving New York, or working for the bad guys?

Brutal Utopias examines the eternal clash between lofty ideals and realpolitik, and the search for perfection in a world that is tilting imminently toward chaos.


About Stephen Carleton

Stephen Carleton is one of Australia’s leading and award-winning playwrights. Based in Brisbane, where he teaches drama and playwriting at the University of Queensland, he also maintains close ties to his hometown, Darwin, and to Cairns and Far North Queensland, where he was born. Stephen’s work is frequently anchored in northern landscape, imagery and politics, and is often lauded for the black humour that runs throughout. He is co-artistic director of Knock-em-Down Theatre with Mary Anne Butler and Gail Evans.

Stephen is one of only three playwrights nationally to win both major theatre industry awards for new writing: the Patrick White Playwrights’ Award in 2004/5 (Sydney Theatre Company) and the Griffin Award for Best New Australian Play in 2015 (Griffin Theatre Company).

He was Chair of the National Playwrights Committee for the Australian Writers’ Guild in 2015/16 (with Mary Anne Butler), and his company Knock-em-Down Theatre has received a Sidney Myer capacity building grant to promote his work in the US.

His major plays include: Constance Drinkwater and the Final Days of Somerset (2006), The Narcissist (2007), Bastard Territory (2014), all published by Playlab, The Turquoise Elephant (2016), New Babylon (2021), and the musical with Paul Hodge, Joh for PM (2017).

His plays have been produced by companies including Queensland Theatre Company, Sydney Theatre Company, La Boite Theatre Company, Griffin Theatre Company, JUTE Theatre Company, Brown’s Mart in Darwin, La Mama, and the Brisbane Powerhouse.


Blue Bones by Merlynn Tong opens at Brisbane Powerhouse from Wed 18 Aug – Sat 28 Aug!