Melbourne writer Michele Lee has taken out the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award for 2016-17 for her sophisticated two-hander, Rice.

Lee’s Rice tells the story of two women — Nisha, the right-hand woman to the CEO of Australian rice company, Golden Fields, who is poised to seal a contract for rice distribution to the Indian government; and Yvette, the company’s cleaner who, late at night, clears the take-away dinner scraps from Nisha’s office.

Rice was selected ahead of fellow finalists Kathryn Marquet’s Furious Creatures and Suzie Miller’s I Looked Up and There You Were. It’s the first time in the Award’s 14-year history that all three finalists have been women.

Delivered through Queensland Theatre Company (QTC), the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award (QPDA) guarantees a professional production of the winning entry.

“Michele’s play Rice is a vivid study of two women discovering what unites them despite social, cultural and generational differences,” says QTC artistic director Sam Strong, who was part of the judging panel for the awards.

“Through the ordinary and extraordinary experiences of her unforgettable characters, Michele asks how we, as human beings and citizens of the world, take accountability for our choices and actions. Rice is a sophisticated portrait of contemporary Australia right now, a play that depicts who we are and who we want to be in all its complexity and diversity. It is deliciously theatrical, expertly blends dry humour and sharp insight, and I cannot wait to see it on our stage.

“The QPDA sits at the centre of QTC’s ambition to lead from Queensland in the nurturing of new stories and new talent. Rice is a worthy winner of the Award and its production announces a significant new artist and a significant new play to the nation.”

Lee herself describes the play as “a fluid two-hander where women topple women, and women rescue women”.

Rice explores the question of women surviving in corporate CBD Australia, especially women of colour, and aims to talk to this changing face of power,” she continues.

“The play forms part of a conversation about who we are as a population, and where our roots are from — the key relationships in Rice include family ties to China, and family and business ties to India.”

QTC has developed 24 plays as part of the QDPA since its inception, including Daniel Evans’ Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Maxine Mellor’s Trollop and Marcel Dorney’s Fractions.