2018 Grant winner Hannah Goodwin

By Kim Boniface AOGU October 18, 2023

Congratulations, Hannah on your new show. What is this production about?

Thank you! A Girl in School Uniform (Walks into a Bar) is a thriller, set slightly in the future, about two young women who live in a city where there are blackouts all the time. When blackouts happen, women go missing. Our schoolgirl, Steph, is looking for her best friend who has disappeared. Her search brings her to a seedy bar in a bad neighbourhood where she meets Bell, a bartender – and that’s where the play kicks off.

It’s all about women learning to cope with fear in the dark, the power of storytelling and the spectre of male violence. We’re producing it in response to the worsening statistics around violence against women in Australia. It’s a spellbinding play by a fantastic young playwright from the UK, Lulu Raczka, and I feel incredibly lucky to be directing it.


We know you’ve been incredibly busy over the last few months, can you share some of the journey you went through to get to this point?

It’s been a big journey. In some way, shape or form I’ve been working on this production for over a year. This time last year I was preparing to pitch it to the Kings Cross Theatre, where it’s starting next week. At the end of 2018, their season launched, and I started working with producer Indiana Kwong to make it a reality. We wrote the marketing copy, did the budget, set the ticket prices, applied for funding and started putting together our dream creative team.

The set and costume designer, Ella Butler and I started work on the design in April, sharing reference points and inspiration. Around the same time, we had a big, open call audition process. More than 200 actors submitted, we auditioned 60, and ended up with two phenomenal performers – Michelle Ny and Cait Burley.

We started rehearsing part-time. Our sound designer and composer Jess Dunn came on board shortly after that. We watched a lot of thriller films together to figure out the genre. Then lighting designer, Phoebe Pilcher came on board, just in time for us to do our first rehearsal in the dark (because close to half of the play happens in pitch darkness with torches). We finally found our stage manager, Sophie Dixon three weeks before we opened (phew!)


Were you also involved in drama and productions while you were at Abbotsleigh?

I absolutely was! I remember playing one of the gossipy court ladies in Amadeus. I think I was in Year 11. I loved it.

The best stuff was Year 12 Drama, though. It was incredibly formative. It was something that I never thought I would be able to do – stand up and perform on my own, and it felt so good to prove myself wrong. I was fortunate to have access to such an incredible Drama Department at Abbotsleigh and a fantastic teacher, Ms Early.


How did winning one of the AOGU 110th Anniversary Grants help you?

A Girl in School Uniform (Walks into a Bar), like all the other independent theatre productions in Sydney, is unwaged. That means that creatives invest their time, passion and energy ahead of time, and hope that ticket sales will go some way towards compensating them for their work. It works this way because arts funding is dwindling in this country, and there are very few avenues for emerging artists to get the financial support or opportunities they need to develop a career. I was fortunate to find that support for this production in the AOGU 110th Anniversary Grant and already it has opened a lot of doors for me. Thank you.

Additionally, by taking some of the financial pressure off, the grant has freed us up to try some different things through community partnerships. We partnered with XFighting and offered a free self-defence workshop for women after the show on Sunday 29 September. We’re also raising money and awareness for Mary’s House, an independent refuge for women escaping violence in Sydney. I’m glad this project has reach beyond the theatre, in many the grant has made that possible.


After you recover from this, what’s next for you?

I’m the lucky 2019 recipient of ATYP’s Rose Byrne Scholarship for Emerging Female Arts Leaders, which basically means that Rose has kindly given me a bursary to do some professional development and research overseas. So, I will be travelling and working on my project for that. That, and pitching projects for 2020.

Want to know more? Watch the promo for Hannah’s production here.