Written in 1947, it was first produced at the Union Theatre, Adelaide by the Adelaide University Theatre Guild, 15 November 1961; then at the Palace Theatre, Sydney, in 1962. Numerous subsequent productions.
New production staged at the Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne, on 16th April 2005.
Produced by the State Theatre Company of South Australia, Adelaide, from 25 February 2012.
Presented by Siren Theatre Company and Griffin Independent, 17 May to 10 June 2017.
Producer & Director: Kate Gaul.
Assistant Directors: Sally Dulson and Phaedra Nicolaidis.
Designer: Jasmine Christie.
Lighting Designer: Hartley T. A. Kemp.
Composer & Sound Designer: Nate Edmondson.
Cast: Andy Dexterity, Eliza Logan, Carmen Lysiak, Johnny Nasser, Jane Phegan, Sebastian Robinson, and Jenny Wu.
'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.'
'Dramas of rejection and artistic opposition rarely play out as neat didactic narratives where the weak are overpowered by the strong, as in Carl Schmitt's friend—enemy distinction. The inevitably messy alliances, collusions, eruptions and flows of affect cannot be contained by applying easy binaries. When we consider the governing bodies involved in the Patrick White Affair, there were disagreements and tensions between members of the Board of Governors and tempers to be assuaged. While affect was projected onto Sir Lloyd Dumas in Harry Medlin's recollections decades after the fact, it is often scripted out of the adversarial negotiations documented in the Adelaide archives.' (Introduction)
'As we saw in Chapters 2 and 3, the Governors rejected The Ham Funeral and Night on Bald Mountain; yet the plays were not passive objects. They had the power to create affects of disgust and anger in some, notably Glen McBride and Neil Hutchison, and joy and enthusiasm in others, such as Harry Medlin, Geoffrey Dutton and Max Harris. Reaching beyond the field of politics, Carl Schmitt recognizes the power of theatre when he ascribes something akin to sovereignty to the lifeworld of plays...' (Introduction)
' The venue recommended for the premiere of The Ham Funeral at the 1962 Festival was the University of Adelaide's Union Hall theatre. The Board of Governors had an agreement with the venue's management, the University Theatre Guild, to stage the Festival's productions of Australian-authored or small-scale new plays from overseas in this space. In the 1960s, Union Hall was what we would consider today to be an off-Broadway or fringe venue, attracting small but drama-literate audiences. The Drama Committee was confident that the proposal to stage the premiere would be accepted, if not welcomed, by the Governors. In the wake of the proposal's unexpected and hostile rejection, the Guild went ahead with the production three months prior to the Festival. The publicity around the rejection of the play ensured that the premiere was a gala social event, attended by Patrick White, local dignitaries, friends of White's and several interstate critics.' (Introduction)
'The rejections of The Ham Funeral and Night on Bald Mountain by the Adelaide Festival's Board of Governors were not random events but were linked to structures of governance and a presumption of sovereignty. Although the Board was not a statutory or corporate body, the Adelaide Festival's Board of governors and committees held regular meetings and kept formal and, at times, extensive minutes. Members of the Board and committees and Festival staff communicated to the outside world through written correspondence, press releases and Festival advertising and programs. This archive allows us to, reconstruct key events in Australian cultural history and address the critical questions they raise about the confrontation of a colonial culture with the emergent dynamic of modernism in the post-war period. ' (Introduction)
(Kate Gaul, for the 2017 Siren Theatre production)
(2017 Siren Theatre production)