'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 replace 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.
The Torrents is set in a newspaper office on an Australian gold-mining town in the late 19th century. It centres on a woman struggling to be accepted into the world of men.
It also focuses on a young engineer who dreams of improving the land in order to grow trees and crops but his ideas are blocked by the town elders.
In The First Joanna Dorothy Blewett explores Australia's acceptance of its convict heritage, tracing the fictional history of the Deverons, owners of a leading South Australian vineyard. The property, situated near the Onkaparinga River, was established in the early years of the colony by settler Stephen Deveron. The central characters of the play are the Joanna Millay, a young convict woman who becomes the matriarch of the Deverons, and Joanna Deveron, the wife of the second Stephen Deveron - the grandson of the first Joanna and the first Stephen Deveron.
The narrative begins on Joanna's birthday in 1945 and introduces the Deveron family. Joanna has only recently arrived at the vineyard and is still suffering from the effects of several years spent as a prisoner of war in Poland. Joanna and Stephen had married in England shortly before the outbreak of war but were forced apart after she became trapped behind enemy lines. Having led a peripatetic upbringing in Europe Joanna finds the dull monotony of life on the vineyard unbearable and is thinking of returning to Europe. Her love of Stephen is making the decision all the more painful.
When Stephen's maiden aunts give her a chair belonging to their mother, Joanna is at first horrifed by the thought of its staid existence. She at first can't bear think about it, but after discovering within the chair a set of diaries written by the first Joanna she becomes fascinated. The diaries reveal a life of trauma, loss, murder, illegitimacy, and eventually, triumph through love. Through her reading of the diaries the play's dramatic action segues into "interpolated scenes" depicting key moments in the lives of Stephen's forebears during the nineteenth century - 1837, 1849, 1862, 1871, and 1885. The diaries ultimately allow the contemporary Joanna the capacity to imagine a future at the vineyard with the man she truly loves.
Characters in the play (in order of appearance):
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