'One of the giants of Australian literature and the only Australian writer to have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, Patrick White received less acclaim when he turned his hand to playwriting.
'In Patrick White’s Theatre, Denise Varney offers a new analysis of White’s eight published plays, discussing how they have been staged and received over a period of 60 years. From the sensational rejection of The Ham Funeral by the Adelaide Festival in 1962 to 21st-century revivals incorporating digital technology, these productions and their reception illustrate the major shifts that have taken place in Australian theatre over time. Varney unpacks White’s complex and unique theatrical imagination, the social issues that preoccupied him as a playwright, and his place in the wider Australian modernist and theatrical traditions.'
' This article discusses a hitherto unexamined letter exchange between the author Patrick White and the theatre director John Sumner. It concerns the production by the Union Theatre Repertory Company of two White plays in the 1960s: 'The Season at Sarsaparilla' (1962) and 'A Cheery Soul' (1963). The aperture of the correspondence also takes in productions of 'The Ham Funeral' (1961) and 'Night on Bald Mountain' (1964) by the Adelaide University Theatre Guild in the same period. Thus it provides a seminal example of 'failure' in White's five-year sojourn in Australian theatre from 1960 to 1965, a time when his four best-known plays were denounced by critics and rejected by audiences. By way of analysis, I deploy a range of interpre tive concepts drawn from Erving Goffman's Stigma (1963), most importantly the notions of 'spoiled identity' and 'role discrepancy'. I define the social fact of failure as a certain relation between actual social identity, virtual social identity, personal identity and ego-identity. The article examines the White- Sumner correspondence to show how failure was managed as a job of work by a 'logic of use' pursuant to its being a likely outcome of staging one of White's plays. In conclusion, it lists the features of a 'logic of use' and discusses the adaptive utility of failing in creative situations where the penalty to be paid - being designated 'a failure' - is both probable and heavy.' (Publication abstract)
'The young Australian theatre director John Tasker arrived back in Australia in 1959, having spent the previous seven years in England and Europe training as an actor, but also absorbing the rich cultural life on offer. On his return, Tasker soon made the acquaintance of Patrick White, who quickly became convinced that Tasker was the most promising young director in Sydney: Tasker would go on to direct the premiere productions of three of White's plays in just over two years in the early 1960s, beginning with The Ham Funeral. This article serves as a 'prologue' to White's early reception in the Australian theatre, tracing Tasker's own engagement with (a broadly defined) modernism and examining how his early - and today almost unknown - productions in Australia reflected this affinity, attracted White's attention, and indeed presaged the successful launch of the theatrical careers of both men.' (Publication abstract)