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Ray Lawler Ray Lawler i(A20518 works by) (a.k.a. Raymond Evenor Lawler)
Born: Established: 1921 Footscray, Footscray - Maribyrnong area, Melbourne - West, Melbourne, Victoria, ;
Gender: Male
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Ray Lawler left school at thirteen to work in a foundry. He developed an interest in amateur dramatics and play-writing in his twenties. He wrote a number of plays before attracting attention when Cradle of Thunder was produced in 1949 and won the National Theatre Movement's Jubilee play competition. But it is Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (1955) for which Lawler is most admired. Lawler's radical exploration of themes such as mateship and myth in Australian culture influenced writers in many genres. Furthermore the use of ordinary Australian language was unprecedented in a successful drama. The success of the play saw it performed in London and New York. The film rights were purchased by an American company and, in 1960, it was produced as a film, starring Ernest Borgnine. Lawler's Summer of the Seventeenth Doll is now widely regarded as an Australian classic and is taught extensively in Australian schools.

Lawler lived abroad for many years and continued to write and perform, but his later work has not had the impact of his early success. Lawler returned to Australia in the 1970s to work as deputy artistic director for the Melbourne Theatre Company. He also wrote two more plays, using the characters of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll to form a trilogy which was first published in 1978.


Most Referenced Works

Awards for Works

y separately published work icon Summer of the Seventeenth Doll 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.

1957 winner International Awards The Evening Standard Award for the Best Play on the London Stage
1955 joint winner Playwrights' Advisory Board Competition

Known archival holdings

Albinski 123
Last amended 16 Aug 2019 12:43:12
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