'Night on Bald Mountain has been called Patrick White's attempt at the first Australian tragedy. A new nurse has arrived to take care of the notorious Mrs Sword at the house on Bald Mountain. Despite best intentions, she finds herself swept up in the machinations and preoccupations of a cast of restless oddities. Ultimately, the flaws of human nature soon emerge as forces beyond all control.'
Source: Malthouse Theatre (2014 season).
First performed by the Adelaide University Theatre Guild on 9 March 1964.
Produced by Malthouse Theatre at the Merlyn Theatre, 5 - 25 May 2014.
Director: Matthew Lutton.
Set & Costume Designer: Dale Ferguson.
Lighting Designer: Paul Jackson.
Composer & Double Bass: Ida Duelund Hansen.
Cast includes Peter Carroll, Ida Duelund Hansen, Julie Forsyth, and Melita Jurisic.
'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)
'Parsing the documents in the archive gives us a sense that the rejection of Night on Bald Mountain took place slowly and with odd turns. The story quietly assumed it shape in late September 1962, with Harry Medlin's enthusiasm for Patrick White's playwriting style - 'the play is excellent', he write. As Chair of the University of Adelaide's Theatre Guild (1961-66), and as a member of the Festival's Drama Advisory Committee, he had already mounted an impressive defence of Australian content in the Festival of Arts and was a significant agitator for modernist theatrical aesthetics more generally. As an advocate of The Ham Funeral a year earlier, such was his belief in the strength of White's modernist plays that he noted, 'The quaint Australian custom of always looking elsewhere can safely be abandoned.' On 26 April 1963, the Governors delivered their fateful words. Of course, the narrative and embodied history is not as neat as all that.' (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)