Burton winners revealed
Playwright Tommy Murphy

Two plays that sweep across a century of Australia's conflicted relationship with the Middle East have shared the honours in the 2012 Richard Burton Award for Playwriting.

Byzantium, WA writer Ingle Knight's treatment for a play he intends writing to mark the centenary of the 1915 Gallipoli campaign, and NSW writer Tommy Murphy's untitled proposal for a play about an Australian lawyer who harbours Afghan asylum-seekers were selected from the short list of six entries.

Knight and Murphy have been awarded Black Swan State Theatre Company commissions worth $15,000 each, prize founder Sally Burton announced at the State Theatre Centre last night.

Six writers were short-listed based on the strength of submitted plays and were asked to submit a treatment for a proposed new work. The other finalists were Mary Rachel Brown, from NSW, Victorians Melissa Bubnic and Tom Holloway and David Milroy, from WA. Black Swan will have the first exclusive right to produce Knight's and Murphy's plays.

Mrs Burton chaired the judging panel, which included Black Swan artistic director Kate Cherry, UWA Publishing director Terri-ann White, Australian Writers Guild WA chair Barbara Connell, and _The West Australian _arts editor Stephen Bevis.

"I am delighted by the calibre of submitted works to this year's Richard Burton Award," Mrs Burton said. "The two chosen recipients provided exciting and inspiring works that caught our attention and our hearts."

The award was established to celebrate the career of the late actor who died in 1984. Last night's award presentation also doubled as the Perth launch of The Richard Burton Diaries, which Mrs Burton had gifted to Swansea University in 2005.

Knight, who has recently moved to Darwin, also wrote the John Curtin play The Fremantle Candidate, staged by the late, lamented Deckchair Theatre Company earlier this year, and Taking Liberty, the play about the 1983 America's Cup victory.

Murphy, the writer of Gwen in Purgatory and Holding the Man, has won the WA Premier's Award, twice won the NSW Premier's Literary Award and an AWGIE Award for Best Play.

The West Australian

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