Van’s Black Hands receive prestigious literary award

Oct 13, 2005

Confronting the difficult subject of terrorism in her latest play was an arduous but rewarding experience for UOW PhD student, Van Badham.

Black Hands/Dead Section is about a faction of the student movement in West Germany in the 1960’s who waged an armed campaign against the state following the brutal harassment, beatings and shootings of anti-Vietnam War student protestors by police.

The play recently received the prestigious QLD Premier’s Literary Award for Drama worth $15,000. The award offers established and aspiring authors the opportunity to gain recognition in the literary industry as well as providing financial assistance to support the development of high quality writing. The award is one of many for the Wollongong playwright, who spends 9 months of each year living and working in England. She was also recently named Best Playwright on the London Fringe – marking her as one of the most exciting emerging talents in British theatre.

“It's wonderful to have the opportunity to win this latest award, and an enormous boost to my career,” she said. “The Queensland Premier's Award is one of the few awards that allows Australian writers to enter work that has been developed overseas - usually, the play must premiere in Australia.”

Black Hands/Dead Section revolves around a student group who were labelled the ‘Baader-Meinhof’ gang. The group’s armed campaign against police included burning down department stores, staging bank robberies, bombing US army bases and kidnapping prominent citizens. They were eventually caught, tortured in prison, unfairly tried and many died in jail in highly suspicious circumstances.

“Germans who lived through that period are still very traumatised by their personal and cultural memories of the divisions in the student movement caused by the gang's radicalism and the sad fate of the leadership -- very few of whom survived,” said Van.

“My aim in writing the play was, simply, to paint terrorism white. I wanted to demystify and contextualise the political circumstances that universally create terrorists. I wanted to challenge the popular mythology that terrorism is a 9/11 phenomenon, and do it by relating a true and historical story from the very recent past with characters whose backgrounds Western audiences would find familiar.”

"The play was a commission from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), with the challenging and unusual brief to write a play for 30 graduating student actors. LAMDA scouted me for the commission as a result of seeing my play Camarilla at the Edinburgh Festival in 2003.”

The judging panel described Van’s play as ‘outstanding writing with an epic range, a complexity of vision and a balance of mood and emotion’ and said she was a ‘voice pushing theatre out of the drawing room smallness of recent plays and tackling the great themes’.

For more information: Contact Van Badham on +61 411 467 918 or e-mail:

Photos of the play are available from the LAMDA by e-mailing:



UOW PhD student, Van Badham, has received the prestigious QLD Premier’s Literary Award for Drama worth $15,000 with her play which challenges the notion of terrorism

Image from a scene in Black Hands/Dead Section (Photographer: John Haynes)

Image from a scene in Black Hands/Dead Section (Photographer: John Haynes)

Return to 2005 News Articles