The Life In Them Words
‘Finely balanced and spiced with well-placed expletives, Patricia Cornelius talks as she writes. The poetic/profane dynamic that surges through her short, grungy plays about the Australian underclass is audible in her voice too. There is frequently a note of anger, a sudden, unapologetic coarsening that reminds you that Cornelius, who is now in her early sixties, has lost none of the fire that forged her first plays at the Melbourne Workers Theatre in the late 1980s (her ‘apprenticeship’ as she calls it). If anything, by her own admission, Cornelius has been emboldened by age. When I telephone her in Melbourne it has only been a couple of months since the infamous exchange at Carrillo and Ziyin Gantners’ dinner for 70 notable Australian playwrights at which Cornelius publicly upbraided Arts Minister Mitch Fifield for the Government’s cuts to the Australia Council. As Fifield left the stage following a platitudinous speech, Cornelius was reported to have risen to her feet like one of the Furies from Greek mythology to punish Fifield’s “false oaths”’.