Brumby Innes 'begins with a corroboree and, like Coonardoo, attempts to engage with a portrayal of Aboriginal life. Its central character, Brumby Innes, is a swaggering drunk who exploits the black workers on his station and abuses the women; he bears a close resemblance to Sam Geary in Coonardoo. Yet, Brumby Innes provides the central energy of the drama, and the celebration of that energy in the play conflicts with the dramatic critique of his sexism and racism. Brumby Innes's character exemplifies the ambivalent attitude in Prichard's work toward this type of male hero. Portrayed as stereotypically masculine, such characters are admired for their energetic, vital sexuality; yet, the extreme limitations of such maleness are also acknowledged.'
Source: Bird, Delys. 'Katharine Susannah Prichard.' Australian Writers, 1915-1950. Ed. Selina Samuels. Detroit: Gale, 2002. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 260.
'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.
Written in Hewett's freewheeling epic style, The Chapel Perilous is a journey play that spans the period between the 1930s and the late 1960s. The story concerns Sally Banner, an over-reacher who attempts to find fulfilment – whether through her gift of poetic expression, through her sexual relationships, or in later years through political activism - and ultimately finds it through self-acceptance. Thematically the play contains the qualities and concerns which are often associated with Hewett's style – female sexuality, questioning of authority and morality, and anarchic tendencies towards structure in both dramatic text and social attitudes.
As Hewett remarks in her 1979 Hecate article: 'Sally is balanced by several symbolic female figures, the "Authority figures" of Headmistress, Anglican teaching "sister", and mother... [along with the] lesbian love figure, Judith, who stands for intellectual control and denial of sensual love' ('Creating Heroines in Australian Plays', p. 77).
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
'In 1939, a lost tribe of Europeans was discovered in the Tasmanian wilderness. They were a band of outcasts who had escaped the torture of convict life, scratching out an existence at the forgotten edge of the island, alone for almost a century.
'Inspired by this true story, writer Louis Nowra (Cosi, Radiance) penned The Golden Age – an extraordinary play that blends historical fact, Australian folklore and poetic language to create a post-colonial myth for our times. Nowra’s outcasts have developed a culture and dialect all of their own, but their bodies are failing them and their very existence is in danger. Brought back into the fold of Australian society, what fate awaits this band of exiles?'
Source: Sydney Theatre Company (2016 revival).
This unit explores trends in Australian theatre from colonisation to the end of the twentieth century and influences on performance styles. It investigates the linkage between changes in Australian society and theatre practice, and the contribution of Australian theatre to the development of an emerging national identity.