For playwright Daniel Keene, it always felt natural to explore the perspective of characters we don’t always hear from. ‘An awful lot of people don’t get represented on stage. It’s true of Indigenous people, disabled people, queer people.... that’s changing, but from the beginning I’ve always been interested in writing about characters people would think of as being on the margin of society.’
It was natural for Daniel to feature characters not often listened to - in theatre or in real life. Many of his works cover themes such as poverty, grief and trauma. ‘It’s not something you decide when you start writing. You just find yourselves writing about certain things and follow that intuition, that instinct, and stay with that - that’s where you are drawn. Not only artistically, but ethically and morally.’
Since first writing for the stage in 1979, Daniel has written over 70 plays. Many of these were produced during his partnership with director Ariette Taylor as The Keene/Taylor Theatre Project, which produced 17 seasons of performances and was invited to both the Sydney Festival and Melbourne International Arts Festival.
Daniel has also achieved great success internationally - particularly in France, a relationship which began 25 years ago as part of an exchange program and sees him (usually) travel there most years. The size and scope of the industry differs greatly from Australia, and he has been embraced fully, winning multiple awards.
In 2016, Daniel was appointed to the rank of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture. ‘France’s cultural life is one of the richest in the world. Audiences are huge and enthusiastic - the French people are very proud of their culture, which includes theatre.’
Many of Daniel’s pieces are short plays, of which he says permit a kind of intimacy that is difficult to achieve in longer works. For Radio Reimagined, two of these works will be recorded: The Rain and Kaddish.
The hope is for listeners to feel something, which may sound simple but is powerful for audiences, especially in an even more intimate context of radio. ‘Everyone of course will feel something different - it’s not possible to predict or decide what people will feel but you want something to happen emotionally. Art is a forum for emotion first, and then intellect.’
Listen to Daniel Keene monologues, Kaddish and The Rain at Victorian Seniors Festival radio Reimagined Spoken Word.