At home with Joanna Murray-Smith

Joanna Murray-Smith and Ludo Photo: Michael Rayner

Joanna Murray-Smith and Ludo Photo: Michael Rayner

Celebrated playwright Joanna Murray-Smith is no sooner home from rehearsals for the Australian premiere of American Song than she’s off to Adelaide where Atlanta, one of her earliest works, is being staged.

“I have five plays on in four states at the moment,” she reveals during a welcome interlude at the North Fitzroy home she shares with the founder of arts bible The Daily Review, Ray Gill, and their three children.

American Song

  • Red Stitch Theatre
  • October 7 – November 5.
  • Bookings: redstitch.net

The couple purchased the “blood and bone” terrace with its distinctive red brick and cream trim and sweet rooftop garden 13 years ago.

One of the chief attractions was its proximity to Edinburgh Gardens. “It’s one of the great parks of Melbourne because it has everything from ferals and families to old men playing bocce,” Joanna laughs.

The couple have made few changes to the property, preferring to let their art and furnishings speak.

“It is about bringing together our own taste, but also chance,” Joanna says. “The chance of what you inherit and what you like and how you fit that into your own sensibility. I feel like the house is a collection of our history together.”

ESKIMO SCULPTURE

My gorgeous dad (writer and historian Stephen Murray-Smith) came home from a trip to Canada in 1971. I remember him pulling this Eskimo sculpture out of his bag. I have always loved it. When my father died my mother gave it to me.

Photo: Michael Rayner

Photo: Michael Rayner

MERYL & ME (1995)

This was an exciting time for me because I was a new mother and I had this new play. When I was writing Honour I thought, how do you ever get a play from the page to the stage? Within a very short time Meryl Streep was reading it and shortly after that it was on Broadway.

Photo: Michael Rayner

Photo: Michael Rayner

BOOKS

My brother David had my plays and novels leather-bound for my 40th birthday. At that point there were seven plays and two books. Now it is up to around the 20 mark. I am a slow thinker but a fast writer and luckily for me they have kept coming. There is something very nice in the digital age in having the tactile object.

Photo: Michael Rayner

Photo: Michael Rayner

RACING GAME

So this was my granny’s. The first thing I would do when I visited her house was take out this game. She used to go to the races herself when she was younger. She had hat boxes full of these wonderful confections, only ever wore Le Louvre clothes and, even when gardening, dressed to the nines.

Photo: Michael Rayner

Photo: Michael Rayner

BABY SHOES

I am a sentimentalist. Even though I love decluttering I can never throw out my children’s shoes. So I have many, many pairs of children’s shoes upstairs. I stop keeping them at about the time their feet stop growing. There is something about shoes that is very eloquent about stages and personality.

Photo: Michael Rayner

Photo: Michael Rayner

PAINTING

We had a very humble, but beautiful surf shack at Wye River. It burnt down on Christmas Day (2015). We had long been admirers of the very talented Melbourne painter William McKinnon, but didn’t know him terribly well. But when he heard about our house a delivery truck arrived with this painting. This painting represents to me love and connection and kindness.

Photo: Michael Rayner

Photo: Michael Rayner

CHAIRS

I have always loved Superleggera chairs by Geo Ponti and coveted them. I guess they were the first thing we bought that was a design icon. They are an amazing piece of engineering and can take a 200lb (90kg) person, but you can lift them with one finger.

Photo: Michael Rayner

Photo: Michael Rayner

 

 

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