AustLit logo
Australian Theatre History (THEA317)


y separately published work icon Brumby Innes, and Bid Me to Love Katharine Susannah Prichard , Katharine Brisbane (editor), Sydney : Currency Methuen Drama , 1974 Z169610 1974 selected work drama (taught in 8 units)

'Written in the 1920s, Brumby Innes confronts the turbulent relations between the sexes and the races in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia. It is published with another Prichard play from the 1920s, Bid Me To Love which, by contrast, is set among the fashionable rich in the lush hills outside Perth.'

'The two plays are compelling for their dramatic styles and for their insight into the novels which followed: Coonardoo and Intimate Strangers. And both had to wait more than forty years for their first production.' (Source: Reading Australia website)

y separately published work icon Summer of the Seventeenth Doll Ray Lawler , 1955 London Sydney : Angus and Robertson , 1957 Z522838 1955 single work drama (taught in 56 units)

'The most famous Australian play and one of the best loved, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll is a tragicomic story of Roo and Barney, two Queensland sugar-cane cutters who go to Melbourne every year during the 'layoff' to live it up with their barmaid girl friends. The title refers to kewpie dolls, tawdry fairground souvenirs, that they brings as gifts and come, in some readings of the play, to represent adolescent dreams in which the characters seem to be permanently trapped. The play tells the story in traditional well-made, realistic form, with effective curtains and an obligatory scene. Its principal appeal – and that of two later plays with which it forms The Doll Trilogy – is the freshness and emotional warmth, even sentimentality, with which it deals with simple virtues of innocence and youthful energy that lie at the heart of the Australian bush legend.

'Ray Lawler’s play confronts that legend with the harsh new reality of modern urban Australia. The 17th year of the canecutters’ arrangement is different. There has been a fight on the canefields and Roo, the tough, heroic, bushman, has arrived with his ego battered and without money. Barney’s girl friend Nancy has left to get married and is replaced by Pearl, who is suspicious of the whole set-up and hopes to trap Barney into marriage. The play charts the inevitable failure of the dream of the layoff, the end of the men’s supremacy as bush heroes and, most poignantly, the betrayal of the idealistic self-sacrifice made by Roo’s girl friend Olive – the most interesting character – to keep the whole thing going. The city emerges victorious, but the emotional tone of the play vindicates the fallen bushman.'

Source: McCallum, John. 'Summer of the Seventeenth Doll.' Companion to Theatre in Australia. Ed. Philip Parson and Victoria Chance. Sydney: Currency Press , 1997: 564-656.

y separately published work icon A Cheery Soul Patrick White , 1979 (Manuscript version)x400055 Z451788 1965 single work drama (taught in 2 units)
y separately published work icon The Floating World John Romeril , 1974 (Manuscript version)x400870 Z498503 1974 single work drama (taught in 11 units)

Les Harding, onetime Japanese prisoner-of-war, takes a package cruise to Japan with his wife. As he draws near, long-repressed memories of suffering well up. A rich, ironic study of Australian xenophobia..

Source: Currency Press


y separately published work icon The Touch of Silk Betty M. Davies , 1928 (Manuscript version)x401235 Z968576 1928 single work drama (taught in 4 units)
— Appears in: The Touch of Silk [and] Granite Peak 1988; (p. 1-83)

A poignant drama centred on Jeanne, a homesick French war bride and her shell-shocked husband battling hardship and prejudice in a drought-stricken Mallee town.

y separately published work icon The Man from Mukinupin : A Musical Play in Two Acts Dorothy Hewett , Fremantle Sydney : Fremantle Press Currency Press , 1979 Z513811 1979 single work musical theatre (taught in 5 units)

Described by Dorothy Hewett in her 1979 Hecate article as 'a romantic comedy, written around the principles of celebration and reconciliation... with love and the realisation of love... central to the story' (78), The Man From Mukinupin also deals with the juxtaposition of surface aspects of life and those which lie beneath the surface. The narrative concerns the courtship and eventual marriage of Polly and Jack, along with their doubles Lily and Harry. The two couples lives, played out in the mythical Western Australia wheat belt town of Mukinupin, are starkly contrasted. Jack and Polly belong to the seemingly respectable and conventional daytime society. Polly, is a double figure - an "about to be disappointed in love an life girl" but for whom everything does come out roses. Her other self is Lily (Touch-of-the-Tar), represents the outsider and outcast. Although Lily and Harry roam the dark netherworld of night-time Mukinupin, she too is able to realise her dream, to escape from the narrow little bush town with her lover. In contrast to these four are the grotesque characters, Widow Tuesday, the Black Widow of Mukinupin who delights in death and destruction; and Edie Perkins, the old lady who recites snatches of Victorian poetry. In discussing the role of her female characters Hewett indicates that the thematic struggle mostly lies within the range of the women : 'They are the most aware of the predicament and are the most violently affected by it' ('Creating Heroines', p79).

y separately published work icon Don's Party David Williamson , 1971 1971 (Manuscript version)x402002 Z1505961 1971 single work drama satire (taught in 17 units)


A study of trends in Australian theatre over two centuries and the influences on performance styles in Australian theatre. If studied in internal mode there are on average one hour of lectures and two hours of workshops/rehearsals per week.

Supplementary Texts

Locke-Elliott, S.. Rusty Bugles. Sydney Currency Press Revised ed., 1980.

Geoghegan, G. (ed R. Covell). The Currency Lass, or, My Native Girl: A Musical Play in Two Acts. Currency Press, 1976.

Thomson, K.. Barmaids. Sydney Currency Press in association with Belvoir Street Theatre, 1992.

Other Details

Levels: Undergraduate