A rising football star is swept up in a cyclone of money, sex and media hype
"I'm very inspired by football players," says Brendan Cowell, actor, playwright and passionate Cronulla Sharks fan, "just the toughness and the way they commit 100 per cent mentally and physically to everything they do on the field."
Cowell's new play is about a football star who switches codes and switches cities, rugby league to Australian rules, from Sydney to Melbourne.
It's a story recalling the controversial real-life conversions of Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau. Throw in a flirtatious, social-media savvy teenager and a debauched end-of-season trip, and The Sublime starts to look very topical, indeed.
"Football makes for great drama," says Cowell, "on field and off field. The highs and the lows, management, money, women, sex, fame and all sorts of things. And then the search for the human being within all that."
In the past, the former star of TV's Love My Way has made no secret of which code he prefers, comparing Australian rules to the food at McDonalds and describing it as "a sport based on running away from people". Can Melburnians trust Cowell to treat our cherished game with respect?
"You don't write a play unless you've got two boxers in the ring," he laughs. " A play requires a true polemic, and I think I pinpoint what is great, and not so great, about both codes."
Structured around three interwoven monologues, the play also represents something of a stylistic departure for Cowell.
"I've written many plays set in kitchens and bedrooms where people walk in with their secrets and then they slowly unfold over the next hour or so. I wanted to do something else."
When MTC artistic director Brett Sheehy asked if Cowell was interested in writing a prose-play, he saw it as an opportunity to tear away the decorative facade of theatre.
"I wanted to get back to what theatre is really about: a few souls, and a few words."