'You could say that a canonical play is one where you’re the problem if you don’t like it. The formula critical judgement + physical repetition = classic fixes its value ahead of time. A canonical play is never bad, only badly received. The job of the canon-upholding critic is to instruct the audience in How to Appreciate Culture.' (Introduction)
''Fucken boong'. With these words Australian theatre entered the swinging sixties – eight years after the decade began.
The two profanities capture the spirit of rebellion that characterised a new generation of theatre artists. They are the last line of Alex Buzo’s play Norm and Ahmed (1968) and the actors who uttered them were prosecuted for obscenity when it was produced in Queensland and Victoria.' (Introduction)
'Two of Australian theatre’s most celebrated artists are scientists. Their CVs may not be immediately recognizable. One is an engineer, an ex-thermodynamics lecturer, and holds a Masters degree in social psychology. The other is a medical doctor, a onetime hospital registrar, and a specialist in clinical immunology.' (Introduction)
'In the introduction to her seminal book Creating Frames: Contemporary Indigenous Theatre, Mary Rose Casey observes:
Indigenous Australian activists and artist have consistently utilised the potential for theatre… to create different frames… of Indigenous Australians… In a show like Basically Black (1972), the “gaze” as an expression of racial objectification was returned… Following this work, writers such as Robert Merritt, Kevin Gilbert, Gerry Bostock and Jack Davis individually and collectively altered the range of representations of Indigenous Australians in Australian theatres and writing. In doing so, they increased awareness of issues affecting Indigenous people and related those issues to [them] as human beings.
Indigenous Australian culture is one of the oldest on the planet, stretching back thousands of years. Indigenous engagement with colonially derived theatre is of shorter duration, and it is only in the last 50 years that Indigenous playwrights, in the European sense, have emerged. Robert Merritt, author of The Cake Man, is one of this cohort. Written in 1975, his play comes after Kevin Gilbert’s The Cherry Pickers (1971) but before Jack Davis’s No Sugar(1985)'. (Introduction)
'If Australian drama came of age in the 1940s and 1950s, in the 1970s it reached full maturity. More work by more playwrights by more companies for larger audiences: this is the basic narrative of the period. The AusStage database indicates that between 1970 and 1979, local productions of Australian plays more than doubled. And if the standard of that drama could be variable, there is no doubting the craft, intelligence and audacity of its peak achievements.' (Introduction)
'There is no single event foreshadowing the darker mood of the 1980s, as the election of the Whitlam Labor government presaged the expansive atmosphere of the 1970s. Margaret Thatcher, “the Iron Lady”, became UK Prime Minister in 1979. The neo-conservative Ronald Reagan was elected US President in 1981. Thereafter came a firestorm of social and economic changes: the deregulation of financial markets; the rise of Islamic fundamentalism; the dismantling of trade barriers; the collapse of Eastern bloc communism; the re-opening of China to the West; Fukuyama’s End of History.'