In our 2024 Stella Prize shortlist videos, Stella pairs the six outstanding shortlisted books for this year’s prize with six outstanding actors to open new possibilities and expand audiences. 

The Swift Dark Tide by Katia Ariel | perfomed by Jane Harber

Australian actor Jane Harber performs an excerpt from Katia Ariel’s debut memoir The Swift Dark Tide.

About the book: What happens when, in the middle of a happy heterosexual marriage, a woman falls in love with another woman? Part memoir, part love letter, The Swift Dark Tide is also a chronicle of life by the sea, journeying between Melbourne’s St Kilda and the Black Sea town of Odessa. Katia Ariel introduces us to a lineage of soulful, strident women and beautifully nuanced men. She invites us into home and heart to witness love, loss and joy, motherhood, daughterhood and the urgent wildness of the body. Read more.

About the actor: Jane Harber is best known for her role as Zara in Channel Ten’s Logie Award winning television series, Offspring. She was recently seen in the ABC series In Limbo, and the second season of the award-winning ABC series The Newsreader. She will next be seen in the US feature film Sleeping Dogs starring Russell Crowe. Jane has also appeared in Miss Fishers’s Murder Mysteries, My Life is Murder, House Husbands, Blue Heelers, The Secret of Us, Underbelly and the US thriller Pretty Little Stalker on Netflix

 

Body Friend by Katherine Brabon | performed by Maria Angelico

Actor Maria Angelico performs an excerpt from Body Friend, the third novel by award-winning writer Katherine Brabon.

About the book: A woman leaves the hospital after an operation and starts swimming in a pool in Melbourne’s inner suburbs. There she meets Frida, who is uncannily like her in her experience of illness. Soon after, she meets another woman in a local park, Sylvia, who sees her pain and encourages her to rest. The two new friends seem to be polar opposites: Frida adores the pool and the natural world, Sylvia clings to the protection of interior worlds. What begins as two seemingly simple friendships is challenged by what each woman asks of her, of themselves, and their bodies. Read more …

About the actor: Maria is an award-winning actor, writer and artist based in Australia. She works extensively on screen, most notably in Netflix’s series Sisters; Binge original Strife, ABC’s The Newsreader; Netflix’s Stateless, ABC’s Retrograde, Blizzards’ World of Warcraft and in her recent debut one woman show, The Disappearing Act at the Malthouse Theatre for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2022. Maria recently wrapped filming feature film Birthright.

 

 

Feast by Emily O’Grady | performed by Nicolette Minster

Actor and writer Nicolette Minster performs an excerpt from Feast, the plot-driven novel by award-winning writer Emily O’Grady.

About the book: Alison is an actress who no longer acts, Patrick a musician past his prime. The couple live an isolated old manor house in Scotland, until Patrick’s teenage daughter, Neve, flees Australia to spend a year abroad with her doting, if unreliable, father, and the stepmother she barely knows. On the weekend of Neve’s eighteenth birthday, her father insists on a special feast to mark the occasion. Despite Neve’s objections, her mother, Shannon, arrives in Scotland to join the celebrations. What none of them know is that Shannon has a hidden agenda that has the potential to shatter the delicate façade of the loving, if dysfunctional, family. Read more … 

About the actor: Nicolette is a comedian, actor and writer, who despite wishing it otherwise is best known as the woman from the viral Mystery of the Washing Basket sketch video. She was a cast member and writer on four seasons of Kinne Tonight and for over five years on Sammy J. She holds a BA Acting from Federation University and a BA Actor Musicianship from Rose Bruford College, London. She writes for TV and film mainly. Her recent broadcast writing credits include Rhys & Joel’s Family Christmas, Thank God You’re Here, The Cheap Seats, Have You Been Paying Attention?, Larry the Wonderpup, The Legend of Burnout Barry and Erinsborough High. She is an AACTA award nominated producer for The Future of Everything and was selected for the 2023 ABC Fresh Blood initiative alongside LateNite’s Nicholas Colla and writer/performer Vidya Rajan.

 

 

Hospital by Sanya Rushdi (translated by Arunava Sinha) | performed by Safia Arain

Actor Safia Arain performs an excerpt from Hospital, the debut novel by bilingual writer Sanya Rushdi.

About the book: In Melbourne a one-time research student with interests in philosophy and psychology is diagnosed with her third episode of psychosis. As she is moved from her family home to a community house and then to hospital, she questions the diagnosis of her sanity or insanity, as determined and defined by a medical model which seems less than convincing to her. Indeed, questioning seems to be at the heart of her psychosis, in her over-active interpretations of signs and gestures, thoughts and emotions – and one understands these to be an expression of her intelligence, even if they seem illusory. She tells her story in a calm, rational voice, with an acute sense of detail and an objective air, as she wonders when the next psychotic episode will materialise, or if it hasn’t already arrived. Read more …

About the actor: Safia is a Sydney-based actor of Pakistani descent. Recently she played the role of Hind Al-Hamedi in the Matchbox Pictures and ABC production House of Gods. She also appears as a series regular in all 4 seasons of the Stan Original series Bump. Other credits include The Appleton Ladies’ Potato RaceThe Last King of the CrossUnderbelly: Vanishing ActPieces of Her and Amazing Grace. Safia is strongly influenced by her Muslim faith and the power of the arts and storytelling to heal and transform.

 

Abandon Every Hope: Essays for the Dead by Hayley Singer | performed Caroline Lee

Award-winning actor Caroline Lee performs an excerpt from Hayley Singer’s debut book, Abandon Every Hope: Essays for the Dead.

About the book: Abandon Every Hope is a lament, a deranged encyclopaedia and a diary of anxiety. How can anyone document the vastness of violence against animals in a bloated industrial age? Singer investigates the literatures of the slaughterhouse to map the contours of a world cut to pieces by organised and profit-driven death. In her compelling and poetic prose, she asks how we may write the life of the dead; the smell of an egg factory; of multispecies PTSD; of planetary harm and self-harm: of the horror we make on Earth. Where does the slaughterhouse begin and how can it end? Read more … 

About the actor: Caroline has worked professionally as a theatre, television, film and voice actress for over thirty years. She has worked with the Malthouse, STC, MTC, Bell Shakespeare, Back to Back Theatre, Red Stitch Actors Theatre and Chamber Made Opera. Recent television appearances include a supporting role in The Newsreader series 1, 2 and 3. Caroline has received four Green Room Awards, three AudioFile Earphones Awards and an OAM for her work in the performing arts.

 

Praiseworthy by Alexis Wright | performed by Tasma Walton

Performed by Tasma Walton

About the book: Praiseworthy is an epic set in the north of Australia, told with the richness of language and scale of imagery for which Alexis Wright has become renowned. In a small town dominated by a haze cloud, which heralds both an ecological catastrophe and a gathering of the ancestors, a crazed visionary seeks out donkeys as the solution to the global climate crisis and the economic dependency of the Aboriginal people. This is a novel which pushes allegory and language to its limits, a cry of outrage against oppression and disadvantage, and a fable for the end of days. Read more …

About the actor: Tasma Walton is a proud Boonwurrung woman from the saltwater Country of Melbourne and surrounding coastlines. She is an actor and producer known for popular shows Mystery Road (2018) and The Claremont Murders (2023). She was in the hit movie How to Please a Woman (2022) and Sweet As (2023).

 

Explore the latest from Stella

This month we celebrate Sarah Holland-Batt’s poetry collection The Jaguar, winner of the 2023 Stella Prize. The book opened a much-needed conversation …

2024 Past Judges

Beejay Silcox – Chair Beejay is a writer, literary critic, and the Artistic Director of the Canberra Writers Festival. Her reviews and …

Meet our partners: Kat Francis – managing director at Canyon We sat down with Kat Francis, managing director at Canyon, to talk …

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