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tralia s magazine of the performing arts

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September 1978



Ihealre Australia Comprehensive Review Section including film, ballet, opera, records, books, National \ Guide.

Hayes Gordon in Annie l Playscript: Pandora’s Cross v New York Theatre Mick Rodger









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T heatre Departments

September 1978 Volume 3 No. 2

2 3 8 9 50

Comment Quotes and Queries Letters Whispers, Rumours and Facts Guide: Theatre, Opera, Dance


5 6 7 7

Hayes Gordon —from Kate to Annie Sharen Flanagan A Theatre Opened to the Future Senda Akihiko Music Theatre in Melbourne Theatre in Schools with Andrew Ross — Joan Ambrose




La Stupenda — Mastery or Myth? A personal assessment of opera’s superstar by Greg Curran The Politics o f Self Indulgence — Wal Cherry looks at the aims and uses of ‘political’ theatre Mick Rodger — John Hindle on the life and work of Mick Rodger



New York, New York — A1 Weiner, USA

Playscript Dance Opera


Pandora 's Cross — Act I, Dorothy Hewett


World Ballet Stars — William Shoubridge


Operafrom the capitals — David Gyger

Theatre Reviews


VIC The Playboy o f the Western World — Raymond Stanley Just Between Ourselves — Jack Flibberd Whittle Family Singers — Les Cartwright


NSW Crown Matrimonial and Hay Fever — Greg Curran As You Like It — Robert Page Catch Me If You Can — Anthony Barclay St. Mary's Kid and The Glass Menagerie — Greg Curran


QLD The Homecoming — Elizabeth Perkins The Father we loved on a beach by the sea — Richard Fotheringham Children's Theatre Survey — Don Batchelor


TAS Tasmania Survey — Karl Flubert


ACT Spring Awakening — Roger Pul vers


SA Cheap and Nasty — Michael Morely Peer Gynt — Katharine Brisbane


WA The Ghost Train — Collin O'Brien


46 47

Jimmie Blacksmith — Elizabeth Riddell Newsfront — Elizabeth Riddell



Concertos and lieder’s last refuge — Roger Covell



Sixteen new Australasian plays — John McCallum


Thespia’s Crossword No.3


a tio n a l Theatre Opera Dance Gtiidep50

Theatre Australia Editor: Executive Editor: Manager:

At the time of writing the Tote situation remains unresolved. On August 17th a summit meeting is scheduled, and so the matter will be to some degree settled before 7>1 appears. It seems, however, still worth commenting on the options and implications for the future, which spread further than the life or death of one company. The Australia Council were being naive if they thought their decision to cease funding would be a quick and silent death blow. The Tote are determined to fight; they have too much at stake to give in quietly. The State Government are the meat in an increasingly sticky sandwich and have reasons to be pulled both ways. But if the Tote manages to stage a coup and pull themselves out of the quicksand, it will be almost certainly at a reduced level of subsidy, and the options remaining open to them will be limited. One of the reasons the Australia Council wasn't happy about pouring in more thousands of dollars in '79 was the decreasing return offered for the taxpayer. Although Robert Helpmann says he has not worked out next year’s programme, their application was for only eight productions over the year, but an increase in funding requested, presumably to some extent to discharge their present deficit. Unofficial rumour has it that their application would have received far greater sympathy if negotiations with John Bell had been successful. Bell is used to working with comparitively miniscule budgets, but it looks as though Helpmann’s negotiations with Peter Hall and Katharine Hepburn (stars of world theatre?) will have to be curtailed. Eight productions would not seem to require, let alone justify, the running costs of two theatres. One of the NSW Government’s considerations must be maintaining the tenancy of their Opera House Drama Theatre, for which the Tote presently pays a quarter of a million dollars in rent. To move out would be an obvious way to cut down the theatre company’s spending, but their earlier residence, the Parade, is no longer secure ground to retreat to. The University of New South Wales, the owners of the theatre, are finally getting restive about the constant occupation of their premises at a peppercorn rent by tfe Tote; questions have been asked at the highest level, and students of the Drama Department demonstrated outside the opening of The Knack. If it is the State Government who again helps to break the deadlock situation, the Tote will almost certainly have to remain in their Drama Theatre. There, of course, there are no administration or workshop facilities at present available to them, so the administrative heart of the company, the building at O’Riordan Street, Alexandria, will have to be retained. It was partly this item of capital expenditure and the top-heavy structure that it signifies, that took the Tote’s subsidy to its present heights. But the Tote has shown an openness to reform; the measures demanded by the Australia Council’s March ultimatum, of Board démo­ cratisation, financial manager and single artistic director have all been carried out despite an apparently recalcitrant attitude. In April the Theatre Board wrote a letter unequivocally wishing the company well and “anxious to see that the Tote prospers...under the leadership of an outstanding artistic director”; so surely a more constructive move would be to fund at 2


some level in conjunction with further reform stipulations. Clearly, ifthe Tote is to continue in any sense as the de facto state company, one of these would have to be the production of Australian plays, in accordance with the Theatre Board’s present declared policy. It is indeed regrettable that the Tote chose to abolish the Seymour Centre season of new and Australian work to stick with what has turned out to be an unimpressive season of classics and a series of semi-commercial comedies. But whatever the criticism of performance — and this magazine has never been its apologist — the Tote is an established theatre company with a name that is patronised and respected by regular audiences who fill their theatres to high capacity houses. It has been the most expansive theatre in Sydney, and is the longest running. One would have thought it was worthier of presevation given ability for and response to improvement, than perhaps Brisbane’s Twelfth Night, which the Australia Council will be funding for majorly entrepreneurial activity in 1979. Brian Sweeney has stated that the money can be better used elsewhere, and that a sub­ committee will be set up in conjunction with the NSW Government to discuss “alternative ways of promoting and funding drama in NSW”. But the immediate result will be that Sydney will be one theatre company the less, a sorry situation for the already under employed pool of actors and technicians, and theatre-goers. The disastrous Columbian Gold Exhibition is said to have pruned Australia Council budgets across the Boards, and indications are that even less money will be available for the arts next year. The cynics suggest this was one way for the Council to balance its budgets, but in any case the likelihood of the kind of money needed to start a new company being found in the near future is almost non-existent. As poor attendances at the Paris Theatre have shown, you can’t create a new, successful company overnight. The Australia Council have decided that a limit has been reached in the affairs of the Tote Theatre Company beyond which they may not go, but how and why that point has been reached appears not to have been properly thought out (and certainly not disclosed). A theatre company, like any company, once it reaches a certain level of success has to expand to keep level pegging, otherwise decline sets in. The Australia Council have been the means by which the Tote has expanded to its present level, and has implicitly condoned its expansion. The Melbourne Theatre Company has done this, Nimrod and the State Theatre of South Australia are doing this, also with the support and knowledge of the Australia Council. When will they go beyond the acceptable level, and where is the axe next to fall? All over the world vast organisations of state theatre companies have been given life by government funding bodies, and they are having to take responsibility for the structures they have created. The Australia Council must take a deal of responsibility for creating this situation; an offer of at least reduced funding (for one theatre, a proportion of Australian plays etc) would maintain a major theatre organisation, one of the few with an international name, and allay the fear of fundamental insecurity that must have swept through all the arts in Australia.

Robert Page Lucy Wagner Jaki Gothard

Advisory Board:

John Bell, Graeme Blundell. Ellen Braye, Katharine Brisbane, Vivian C'halwyn, Gordon Chater, John Clark, Michael Crosby, W.A. Enright, Jack Hibberd. Ken Horler, Garrie Hutchinson, Robert Jordan, Philip Mason, Stan Marks, Jake Newby, Phil Noyce, Raymond Omodei, Philip Parsons. Diana Sharpe, Ken Southgate, Raymond Stanley, Elizabeth Sweeting, Marlis Thiersch, John Timlin. Tony Trench. Guthrie Worby, Richard Wherrett. Advertising: Artist:

Jaki Gothard/Debbie Cockle Henry Cho

Correspondents: N.S.W.: Vic.: Qld.: W.A.: S.A.:

Editors (049) 67-4470 Raymond Stanley (03) 419-1204 Don Batchelor (07) 269-3018 Joan Ambrose (09) 299-6639 Michael Morley (08) 275-2204

Theatre Australia gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance of the Australia Council, the Literature Board of the Australia Council, the New South Wales Cultural Grants Board, the Arts Grants Advisory Committee of South Australia, the Queensland Cultural Activities Department, the Victorian Ministry of the Arts, The Western Australian Arts Council and the Assistance of the University of Newcastle. Manuscripts:

Manuscripts and editorial correspondence should be forwarded to the editorial office, 80 Elizabeth Street. Mayfield, NSW 2304. Telephone (049) 67-4470. Whilst every care is taken of manuscripts and visual material supplied for this magazine, the publishers and their agents accept no liability for loss or damage which may occur. Unsolicited manuscripts and visual material will not be returned unless accompanied by a stamped addressed envelope. Opinions expressed in signed articles are not necessarily those of the editors. Subscriptions and Advertising:

The subscription rate is $18.00 post free within Australia. Cheques should be made payable to Theatre Australia and posted to the publisher's address. For advertising information contact Jaki Gothard/ Debbie Cockle — Sydney Office (02) 27-4028, 6th Floor, 29 Reiby Place, Sydney, NSW 2000.

Theatre Australia is published by Theatre Publications Ltd., 80 Elizabeth Street. Mayfield. NSW 2304. Telephone (049) 67-4470. Distributed by subscription and through theatre foyers etc. by Theatre Publications Ltd., and to newsagents throughout Australia by Gordon and Gotch (A'asia) Ltd., Melbourne, Sydney. Wholly Set up by Tell & Sell Promotions, printed in Australia by Leader Publishing House. Theatre Publications Ltd. All rights reserved except where specified. The cover price is maximum recommended retail price only. Registered for posting as a periodical — category B.

Joan Sutherland as and in Norma. Photo: William Moseley.



D ire c to r ,

is a new company. What's happened in the past, going into recession and whatever, is largely irrelevant. There is no company at the moment, and won’t be until there are actors, a designer, stage manager and staff. The kind of theatre I will be putting on will be popular — in all its forms — from commissioned shows about Newcastle and the region to musicals. I’m not avant garde; I want music, warmth, laughter. There will be a lot of involvement with the community. I will be auditioning for all shows first in Newcastle — where anyone can come along, although auditions will be stringent — and then in Sydney. I hope to be able to use amateurs in the smaller roles, and perhaps for other work. There is an amazing amount of support, with six hundred members of the company, and the very generous donations for the theatre building that have come from people and companies. The two hundred seat theatre should be the perfect size, intimate, but if any of the shows is a huge success we can extend its run or transfer it to somewhere larger. The building is now going ahead and the first season will open early in 79.”


A d e la id e F e s tiv a l.

“From all my first impressions of Australia one has surfaced which dominates all the others. This is the pervading contrast between young and old, old and new — a contrast that, despite its universality, seems to have a far greater significance here than anywhere else I know. It is this contrast, which one can also see as the interaction of tradition and progress that 1 propose to take as the theme for the 1980 Adelaide Festival of Arts. It is a theme that will unify virtually all the arts elements of the Festival and will also involve and cater for all elements of the community. It is a theme that affects everyone in the community every day. Each of us, after all, has been a child, and hopes to live to old age. Approaches to the theme may include the last works of composers, artists, writers, dramatists etc, presented alongside their earliest ones. The works of the old and the young. New and old aspects of Australia. The “problem" of old age and youth. Old and new worked on the theme, including commissioned works. 1 will be overseas until mid-September finding out who and what is available, and hope to have good news on that front when I return.”


“Stan Laurel, the comedian, has always fascinated me: his screen persona — his amiable idiocy — contrasts so very strongly with what one can gather about his professional drive and his personal ruthlessness. This is the main theme of Gone With Hardy. The play is set against the vaudeville period of Stan’s pre-Laurel and Hardy days when, for a time, he worked with an Australian singer and dancer I’ve called Kate. I’ve tried to show the clash of their needs and ambitions through the background of their different national origins. As a Pom myself, resident here for seven years, I find this kind of English/Australian cultural encounter particularly interesting — in fact the predominant theme of most of my current writing! The gross figure of Jock McTavish, the third character in the play, who in some ways acts as a kind of chorus, sums up for me all that is crudely entertaining in the Music Hall tradition. He, like Stan, but for different reasons, is a survivor: Kate is a victim.”

LA SCALA TO SYDNEY A V A H U B B L E , P u b lic ity , S y d n e y O p e ra


M cG R E G O R ,

H u n te r

V a lle y

T h e a tr e C o m p a n y .

“For me the Hunter Valley Theatre Company


“From August 4th to the end of September we have an exhibition commemorating the 200th Anniversary of La Scala, Milan, which will be in the Exhibition Hall of the Opera House. It was

put together by La Scala’s Theatre Museum and is travelling around the world; from here it goes on to America. The Director of La Scala’s Museum, Tiam Piero Tintori is coming out here to supervise the mounting of the exhibition which will actually be done by Bill Passmore. The exhibition is mainly graphic, set and costume designs over two hundred years from 1778 on. There aren’t any actual costumes but there will be some items and some marvellous posters advertising their operas. So we will be able to see their style and how it has changed over the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century.”

ACME C A R O L IN E H E B B R O N , A d m in is tra to r .

“The Australia Contemporary Music Ensemble is now an integral part of Australian musical life. In a short time, under the musical direction of Keith Humble, it has emerged with the Sydney String Quartet and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, as Australia’s leading performing ensemble. Its series of concerts at this year’s Adelaide Festival of the Arts drew from local and inter­ national critics accolades of praise. Included in these programmes were ten Australian com­ positions, five of them first performances. The existence of this platform is important, as contemporary composition, particularly Australian works, has lacked a showcase of virtuoso performers. Too often the acceptance by the public of 20th century music has been impeded by unsatisfactory performances. The concerts that ACME has given have proved that contemporary music superbly performed is not such a problem to audiences. The Ensemble will operate on a national and international level. Within Australia it will develop a lively regional programme, together with creative educational projects for junior schools to tertiary level. It will present workshops, lecture-demonstrations, and public concerts using the best of the 20th century repertoire, including Australian compositions. By maintaining an extremely high standard in all that it undertakes, the Ensemble hopes to stimulate composers to write for the group. Internationally, ACME plans to undertake one major overseas tour a year, introducing new Australiah works to different countries in highly professional performances. ACME has made one record — produced by Cherry Pie Records — which won the 1978 National Critics Award. The Australia Contemporary Music Ensemble gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Victorian Ministry for the Arts, and the Music Board of the Australia Council.” THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978


DIGESTIBLE WORLD WAR II B R Y O N W IL L IA M S , S ta g e D o o r T h e a tr e R e s ta u ra n t in M e lb o u rn e .

“The idea of theatre with food has always interested me and suddenly finding myself working in a theatre restaurant situation, 1again toyed with the idea. 1 and my partner, Barbara Ramsay, believed that it should be possible to write and produce a show suitable for a theatre and transplant it into a venue where people could enjoy a good meal, a glass of wine and sit back and enjcy a show without having to rush from restaurant to theatre. With this in mind we conceived, wrote and produced, Kiss Me Goodnight Sergeant Major. After several disappointments we eventually found a venue which, although not ideal for our purposes, had a lot of things in its favour. It was a fairly large convention room adjoining The Ponsonby Restaurant, Queens Road, Melbourne. The location was ideal, being just on the fringe of the city proper, with plenty of off street parking, its own entrance and foyer, kitchen and toilet facilities. Kiss Me Goodnight Sergeant Major is a nostalgic trip through the Second World War period. The show commences with the declaration of war by the then Prime Minister, R G Menzies and through news flashes, sketches, songs and dances, we travel through the war years covering such areas as Dunkirk, the London Blitz, munition workers, Pearl Harbour, US / Australian relations, African desert campaign, the home front, letters and parcels to the boys, New Guinea, the Atom Bomb and finally on to the Victory celebrations. There are one hundred songs from the period played by a three piece band and sung by the cast comprising Gary Down, Val Mills, Suzanne Dudley and Will Deumer. After supper which is served during the Victory celebrations, the audience are allowed to dance until midnight to the sounds of Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey and other bands of the era. As for the future, one would hope that it is possible to do all types of theatre in such a venue. Not only musical comedy/revue like the present show, but drama, one man recitals, children’s theatre, in fact any kind of theatre where people can relax in an informal atmosphere and enjoy good theatre and good food without rushing through their meal to sit in a conventional type of theatre with indigestion as their partner.”


“As Presentations Manager for the Arts Council of New South Wales for nearly two years 1 have had the pleasure of presenting many excellent artists to thousands of appreciative school children. Unfortunately 1 have also had to reject many fine acts for Arts Council touring as there is a limit to the number 4


of acts one organisation can accommodate. For this reason, I have decided to organise tours privately and introduce some new faces as well as some of the more familiar and popular artists who have previously toured for the Arts Council. Initially 1 will be touring shows to schools, but later intend promoting concerts and theatrical productions of a larger scale. 1 will also be making myself available on a freelance basis for the planning and promotion of shows, and in particular country touring. The first two shows 1 will be doing for schools will be the Modern Mime Theatre, Infants and Primary Schools in the Metropolitan area November and December, and Mike Jackson, Infants, Primary and Secondary in the V\cst. Riverina and South Coast districts during October, November and December.”




C o s tu m e

D e p a r tm e n t.

“The Trust’s Costume Hire Department has over ten thousand costumes and we’re constantly increasing our stock and expanding the department to give the public a better selection. We’ve got a very good range of period and fancy dress, and we can make costumes for hire or for order. If you're a Trust member, a charity, a school or an amateur group you get a special discount, but we have the cheapest rates in Sydney anyway. We hire for fancy dress parties, drama groups, professional productions, TV and newspaper commercials, TV shows, films, exhibitions and fashion parades. But we're also always interested in purchasing costumes from other productions and films. We have all the costumes from —Picnic at Hanging Rock, for instance. We also buy original pieces from the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, for patterns to work from and for reference work. We have a good reference library on costume and research facilities and drama groups and schools are always welcome to go on a tour of the costumes.”


O ’ N E IL ,

C h a irm a n ,

H o o p la

T h e a tr e F o u n d a tio n .

“No one likes to see a theatre company in trouble — particularly when you are in the business yourself. However Hoopla feels compelled to support the Australia Council Theatre Board’s courageous decision in refusing to continue to bail out the Old Tote.” “No company, ours included, has any right to subsidy. Public funding must be earned and reearned. Every company must be judged regularly on its merits as there is a tendency by subsidised theatre (or any arts for that matter) to develop bureaucracies, and to institutionalise ideas that have lost their relevance. The theatre (Continued on page 40)

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Hayes Gordon — from Kate to Annie Sharen Flanagan It’s a long way from the impoverished farmlets of Russia to the American boardrooms of multi-billion dollar business, but when Hayes Gordon opens in JC W illiamson’s new musical Annie later this year he will be going all the way. Known by Australian audiences princ­ ipally for his role as the imposing Russian Jew in Fiddler on the Roof, he will be shedding his full beard and five fictional daughters to assume the clean-shaven bald-headed facade of Daddy W arbucks — a wealthy American business tycoon who eventually adopts one pint-sized orphan girl. Offstage he will be making a much bigger transition — from being director-teacher at Sydney’s Ensemble Theatre to the rigorous routine of a singing-dancing actor. It has been eight long years since Hayes last stepped on stage. But he has travelled the road before. When he accepted the lead role in Fiddler back in 1967 it was after an eleven year absence. He is the first to adm it it was tough then, and now, at the age of fifty eight it has not become any easier.“ Let’s face it — I haven’t opened my mouth in eight years and while I’m telling everybody else to play actions, I’m out of practice. And who knows, as soon as I shave my head I’ll probably come down with pneum onia and be out of the show for eight years. Anything can happen” , he jokes, b ut with a touch of underlying apprehension. Hayes first came to Australia in 1952. He travelled out from the US to take the lead role in JC Williamson’s Kiss Me Kate. He liked A ustralia and stayed, giving birth to the Ensemble Theatre and acting studios and enriching the Australian theatre world with his rare and very special directing and teaching talents. The past eight years have been comfortable ones for him, living at St Ives, directing, teaching and occasionally escaping out on the harbor with his boat. So what is so special about Annie that is persuading Hayes to uproot and move to Melbourne? “ It opened in New York and is probably considered one of the greatest hits in years and years and years, and when it opened in London just several weeks ago the critics raved, absolutely raved and business is packed out” , he tells you. He describes A nnie as a show which combines the best of Oliver — “ not in the derivation of musical text but I mean in terms of myth” — Cinderalla and A Christmas Carol.

“The most wonderful evocative legends are all combined in the one concept of a musical,” he says. “ I don’t know why the thing shouldn’t work, and then coming in around Christmas I think it’s perfect family fare and people have been crying out for family fare.” He also describes the show as “ a sneaky political play” : “ It’s very topical. The play takes place during the depression and the government is in a dilemma about what to do about rising unemployment. They ultimately decide upon government action to open the factories and create employment. And being set in the United States gives it some sort of distancing association so that if people don’t want to see it any closer than just fun and games they are not forced to but if they want to draw analogies and say, ’yea, well if they did it there why can’t we do it here, feel free” . He adm its that he himself was not over impressed when he first heard the music of the show. But then he read the script. “ Now suddenly the music plus the script puts everything in perspective. It is like so many integrated musicals, one depends on the other,” he tells you. 'BUT IT SURE W O N ’T B E T H ’ SAME AS H A V IN ’ YOU HERE — G E E I W IS H - (S N IF F -S N IF F ) BUT W H A T ’S T H ’ USE? I ’M NO CR Y-B A B Y—


7 z n = -] T H b original strip chara«

Hayes’ p art as Daddy W arbucks requires him to sing six songs (one a solo), dance and carry around the little actress who will play Annie. “We are looking for a three-foot high em aciated midget to play Annie,” he jokes. The show promises to be spectacular. According to Hayes the set is extremely elaborate — one of the reasons for opening the show in Melbourne near W illiamson’s workshops — and there has obviously been no stinting on casting. Hayes himself admits to being paid New York wages and other heavyweights already signed up include such names as Jill Perryman, Nancy Hayes and Kevin Johnson. On the technical side there is George M artin as director (an American who came out previously to direct A Little Night Music), M artin Cham in as script writer, Kenn Brodziak as producer, Noel Smith as musical director and George M artin’s wife as choreographer. But still, why is Hayes returning to the stage? It was no secret that he only undertook to do Fiddler for the money, necessary at the time for the very survival of the Ensemble. But the Ensemble is “ able to stand on its own hindlegs now,” he tells you. “ There were an awful lot of reasons saying, ‘hey, stay put, don’t rock the boat’. “ But I have been girding my loins to write a book, a kind of text on acting and some of the stuff that seems theoretically correct still needs to be tested,” he says. Hayes points out that sometimes his acting students are a little reluctant to em bark on some of the techniques he teaches, “ so if I can put them to the test and they can see them working, I think it will accelerate their process of training,” he says. “ Another thing too, I think it is a timely show. It has beneath its fun and games, something to say which I think is relevant and pertinent to us here and now and I think it needs saying” . “ Also I can use the money,” he admits. “ Every now and then I have to keep an eye on my retiring age, because you know I’m not a citizen of Australia. I’m not entitled to a pension and I’m having to provide my own superannuation.’’ So is this finally Hayes Gordon’s swan song? “ Every show I do is a swan song. I hope never to do another one again, but there comes a time when you discover maybe you have to do it,” he tells you. One thing is certain, it is no ego trip. Hayes recalls the advice of WC Fields who warned other actors against working on stage with children or animals: “We are going to be working with a stageful of very cute talented little girls and a waif dog with a wistful look named Sandy and if there were any ego tripping I don’t think we would have a hope in hell,” he laughs. Meanwhile it’s business as usual at the Ensemble. Hayes is currently directing a new show called Lam b o f God which will open at the theatre in the first week of August. THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978



I was asked by many people, on my i arrival in Australia, how long I would be ! staying. My answer — “ three weeks” — brought incredulous stares. One girl, who studies Japanese theatre said to me, “You’re planning on seeing the whole country in only three weeks?!” W hen one has given oneself over to the helter-skelter world of Japanese journal­ ism, three weeks to see one country’s theatre seems like all the time in the world. But Australia proved to be the exception to this. I couldn’t quite believe the distances. And time seemed to pass with a quiet composure cf its own. I didn’t see a single person huffing or, for that m atter, puffing through a single crowd, as in Japan. (In Tokyo virtually everybody rushes every­ where for no reason at all.) For any number of reasons, here was a country that was truly Japan’s opposite number. If I was to approach Australian theatre as well, I would have to begin by withholding judgm ent on the basis of a Japanese sensibility to time and space. Besides this, Australia seemed different from both Europe and America too. In Asia, it was not exactly Asia. It appeared to me as a Fourth World, an independent domain, with its own sense of time and space. I was very happy that the country offered so much that I had to see, far more than were my expectations of it. I saw play after play in Canberra, Adelaide, Sydney, and Melbourne, sometimes up to three plays a day; and I never tired of it. The standard of production was always high. I should point out that I was fortunate to meet a large num ber of great people of ability, as katharine Brisbane, Phillip Parsons, Marlis Thiersch, Roger Pulvers, Len Radic, Peter Kenna, Ron Blair, Dorothy Hewett, Ray Lawler, Alex Buzo, Jim Sharman, and Rob Page. They addressed themselves to my childish questions with the greatest care, sen­ sitivity, and patience. They gave me valuable advice at every turn. I felt a warmth and an attractiveness in both the people of Australian theatre and the theatre itself. Those three weeks were very happy ones for me! I felt I was at a festival the entire time. Now, I don’t think so highly of myself to presume that I could draw any concrete conclusions from such a short stay in one country. Were I to come at another time and see other productions, I would no doubt have a different view of things. W hat I write here are temporary assum p­ tions on my part and nothing more; fleeting impressions, if you will. First, I was struck by the largeness of the beauty of Australian theatre. Aust­ ralian theatre, too, has both feet on the ground. It is a no-frills theatre. It seemed to me to be a theatre that has chosen a concrete simplicity over superficial show­ iness. It has not strayed from the essential elements or yeilded to a technique-for-itsown-sake tendency, a transient state at best. A ustralian theatre is a theatre of healthy balance, not carried away by violent one-directional outbursts of dog­ matic self-righteousness. To put it another way, Australian theatre has as its back­ drop an artistic sensibility that comes from 6


A Theatre Opened To The Future Senda Akihiko One o f Japan’s leading theatre critics assesses Australian theatre maturity. It is a civic theatre. Where does this stability come from? Probably from the solid base of a large continent as it is reflected in people’s minds; from a society that is built on peaceful processes and is comparatively well-off and free of strains. So much of modern theatre has entered the cul de sac of technique for its own sake, of excessive technicality without purpose. T hat theatre is theatre for its own sake. It may be intelligent, but it is largely empty. A ustra­ lian theatre, it seems to me, has checked this kind of theatre before it could take hold. I was surprised to find that the majority of playwrights who are active on the front line of theatre were in their thirties; and that the “ new wave” had come, with them riding it, during the second half of the 1960’s. There is an intriguing similarity in this with the Japanese situation. In Japan, the so-called little theatre movement of anti-establishm ent writers and directors arose — Kara Juro, Suzuki Tadashi, Betsuyaku Minoru, Sato Makoto, Terayama Shuji, Higashi Y utaka...T hese people, and others, re-drew the map of Japanese theatre. But one quickly sees the differences between the two “ new waves” . The Japanese theatre of the sixties was one which set out to negate a modern dram a based on psychologism and realism. It was an avant-garde experimental movement which is still a minority movement in the world of Japanese theatre today. So I was naturally surprised to see that most of the same generation of playwrights and directors in their thirties here in Australia were writing popular pieces which were widely accepted and enjoyed by society, dram as that had a mature technique in them and a traditional point of departure; and that these people were already successful in the middle area of their society. The Japanese theatre world has a thick layer of old people running it at the top. It is a theatre that is sharply polarized in its value system. And it doesn’t have an open-ended structure as does A ustralian society. Be that as it may, most Australian playwrights are sure of their technique, which is a careful and meticulous one. Moreover, it is a technique that uses means which have a high rate of success. A typical example of this is Alex Buzo’s Makassar R eef which I saw in Melbourne. It was a “ well-made play” full of ready wit

and a cosmopolitan, refined sense. Aarne Neeme’s direction was skilful, and there was life on stage; and I was impressed by the playwright’s ability. However, whilst the play did entertain the audience very much, it was not the kind of piece th at confronts an audience in a keen way. I prefer this playwright’s early work which is much more interesting, plays like Norm and A hm ed and Rooted, which I have only read, however. At least in those plays there is a mystery, a darkness that cannot be fully elucidated. T hat is why I felt that, while there was a high overall level in production and a sure maturity — and I fully value these qualities, there was one thing lacking: most of the plays I saw lacked wonder. This may merely be the prejudice of a person who has seen too much Japanese experimental work from a theatre that gives all its power over to superceding realism, a theatre that thrives on the theatricality of the spectacle and the element of the unexpected in the plot. It may be th at I am ill-informed really, that I feel this way only because I have seen so little of A ustralia’s theatre. Whatever, it does appear to me that Australian theatre, in the long run, will take its form from the gentle discord that exists between the representational mainstream of people like Alex Buzo and David Williamson on the one hand, and non-mainstream anti­ naturalists like Dorothy Hewett, with her poetic dram as, Roger Pulvers with his social criticism and satire, and directors like Jim Sharm an and Rex Cram phorn, on the other. This theatre would be different again from that of either Europe or Asia. It would be the original product of this unique continent. It would be a theatre that reflects the complexities of a m ulti­ racial state; not restrained by tradition; supported by a largeness of approach and no limits on time and space; facing, more than anything, the future, and opened out wide; a theatre of possibility and abun­ dance. Australian theatre is part of the zone of Asian theatre, yet in many ways is such a contrast to Japanese theatre. We cannot but be deeply impressed by it.

established 1967^

F D C j Cj LIGHTING AND SOUND Concerts, Theatres, Exhibitions ( 02) 31

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Music Theatre in Melbourne On September 1st at the Union Theatre, University of Melbourne, the Victorian State O pera is to open its second season of contemporary music theatre. Two of the works, The Apology o f Boney Anderson, text by Murray Copeland to the music of Barry Conyngham, and Sin: An Immoral Fable in Seven Deadly Acts and Entr'actes, written by Jack Hibberd with music by M artin Friedl, have been specially commissioned by the company. The third work of the evening is Eliza Fraser Sings, words by Barbara Blackman and music by Peter Sculthorpe, which was recently premiered in Sydney. With this season of music dramas the Victorian State Opera can now rightfully claim to be the only opera company in the country to present new works by Aus­ tralian composers and writers on a regular basis. Not only that, the company views the production and presentation of such works

as “ one of its major functions and achievements” . All praise to them. Boney Anderson tells the tale of a convict chained to a rock in Sydney H arbour after becoming violent due to a head injury sustained at the battle of Navarino. On his rock, like a modern Prometheus, he became atouristattraction. The piece takes up his story after he had been reserved and taken to Norfolk Island, where visitors draw flashes of memories from him as he tends animals. Jack H ibberd’s Sin is a modern morality tale described as “ theatrical, boisterous, irreverent and thought provoking” . It takes the lid off conventional social attitudes by juxtaposing comically and satirically, images of vice and virtue M artin Friedl worked with the writer for the Pram Factory’s production of The Overcoat, as did Paul Hampton the director. Evelyn Krape and Jan Friedl are in the cast. In Eliza Fraser Sings, M argot Cory plays the half-mad Mrs Fraser outside the Showground booth she set up in Hyde Park, Sydney, where she told the story of her long ordeal on what is now known as Fraser Island, in the hands of the

Sin fui Evelyn Krape aboriginals. The season runs for five nights between September 1st and 8th.

Theatre in Schools with Andrew Ross Joan Ambrose A winter’s morning, a school with the sounds and smells of a school. The elusive nostalgia of orange peel, wet gym shoes and duplicating ink. And the year twelves are restless. They have been herded into a rather cram ped reading room to see a play. They give the impressioh they’d rather be doing maths, or better still not being at school at all. Suddenly a transistor breaks into their talk. Then Adele Lewin as Mag walks onto the acting area, shortly followed by John Rayment as Joe, and the play The Winners by Brian Friel begins. It is a play about being in love, about exams, leaving school, and being pregnant. Eighty minutes later, a group of kids walk out of that room, moved, inarticulate, each separate, each wrapped in a response that they do not wish to break, so great has been their empathy with the play. All of that is something new to students in W estern Australia. Director Andrew Ross was appointed in January 1977 to set up TIE in the West, under the auspices of the National Theatre Company. There was no money and a big job to do. But Andrew was very clear in his mind where he wanted to go and what he wanted to do. In this he has been supported by both Aarne Neeme and Stephen Barry, successive Directors of the National Theatre. The result has been outstandingly successful. There is now a waiting list of schools who are asking for the Theatre in Education team, and schools even book return visits of the plays. Andrew’s background is as a Director of Student Theatre at Monash and some years with the MTC on a freelance basis. A fortuitous accidental meeting with Aarne Neeme gave him the opportunity to join the National Theatre and to put into

National Theatre, Perth’s TIE team: Igor Sas (Actor), Andrew Ross (director), David Kennedy (actor), Ross Coli (actor), Richard Tulloch (actor) and Louise Griffin (actor). practice his convictions about what kind of theatre should be played in schools. But the first problem was money. Initially, the plays chosen were twohanders. The TIE company in the beginning had to largely run on box-office. But the response to these first plays Cupid in Transit and Winners was so good that the Schools Commission funded Eureka by David Young for primary schools. A film of the performance has been made so that schools not yet involved can see the type of work the TIE team presents. Subsequent funding from the WA Arts Council and the Australia Council has allowed the Company to develop, and to realise Andrew Ross’s initial belief that TIE companies work best with a writer in the team. Richard Tulloch has now been with the company since the beginning of this year and two new plays Red Earth and Kaspajack — a word play for primary

schools — have emerged as a result. The guiding philosophy behind Andrew’s work is a commitment to bringing theatre to schools, in a way that relates to the child’s complete experience and not just to curriculum needs, presenting plays that are both entertaining b ut with a depth and pithy content th at expand the childrens understanding and awareness. It has been a busy period for Andrew Ross. In addition to the exacting demands of forming TIE in Western Australia he also has some critically acclaimed Green­ room productions to his credit, such as Ashes and Going Home. He never imagined that he would come West. But it has been a rather marvellous, almost frontier, experience he says. There are so many opportunities and a fresh and vigorous approach here, that make the efforts of the last eighteen months very worthwhile. THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978


Dear Sir, On reading Marguerite Well’s article “No Culture Comes Out of Emptiness”, it strikes me that readers may well get the impression that Fortune Theatre Company is critical of the Canberra Theatre Trust for assisting us in staging our lunchtime seasons in the foyer of the Canberra Theatre, rather than the Playhouse. In fact this is not so, we would be pleased to have the use of the Playhouse in the future — but only at such time as we have sufficient funding to enable us to make full use of the available facilities. We are a newly formed company, gradually building a reputation for lunchtime theatre, and, by necessity keeping our expenditure as low as possible. The foyer of the theatre is ideal for us, we are able to use representational furniture, sets, lighting etc. We believe this informality is one of the reasons for the success of our lunch­ time seasons. We have received the utmost co-operation from Terry Vaughan, and the Theatre Trust in general. And are now in the process of preparing four more plays, to run from September 11th to October 6th. In her article Ms Wells has not misquoted us, but used our statement out of context, with the unfortunate effect of bracketing Fortune Theatre Company with a group of people in the A.C.T. who feel they have a grievance against the Theatre Trust. Yours faithfully, P a t H u tc h in s o n F o rtu n e T h e a tr e C o m p a n y A .C .T .

Dear Editor, It’s about time I re-established correspondence with you, and re assured you of my continued interest in TA. This is an interest, by the way, which is shared by many people in Canada; comments have been made on the quality and breadth of the journal, and I think these worth passing along. John Romeril was in town last Spring, visiting theatres and theatre people in Canada from coast to coast. He made a great impression here; his disarmingly relaxed personality did more for the success of his stay than the cultural attache at the Australian High Commission in Ottawa. At Harbourfront, a community/multi-arts complex, John gave a televised, live performance of the Les Harding monologue from The Floating World. It was the highlight of an evening scheduled otherwise for poetry recitation. John Romeril’s being in Canada was the result of his winning the CanadianAustralian Literary Prize, which he actually won, I think, two or three years ago. Much THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978

interest in Romeril now exists here, and about theatre in Australia generally. The National Theatre in Ottawa (NAC) is possibly going to perform The Floating World as part of their season for 1979. Another stray piece of miscellany is about Australian films and the way they are marketed over here. First, I’ve never seen Picnic at Flanging Rock screened in Canada, neither in regular distribution nor festival showing. Recently, The Devil’s Playground was shown in a large (by that I mean four cinemas under the one roof) downtown house. It .ran for a scant week, and was hopelessly billed as “An Australian horror movie” — and they meant horror in the genre not the aesthetic sense. Another case is Petersen — from a David Williamson script, I believe — which became Jock Petersen over here, where it was released in a blood-n’-guts outlet (‘Jock’, I guess you already know, is North American for an individual who answers to his brawn rather than his brain — ocker may translate?). I think distributors are loath to take a risk with Australian films in Canada. Of course, this is understandable while not laudable; Mad Dog Morgan was given conventional release because it had Dennis Hopper as its star. But then, I wonder why Rachel Roberts (at least known here for her role in a Tony Randall sitcom) doesn't qualify Picnic at Hanging Rock for North American release. Perhaps it has been shown in the states, I don’t know. At least one would hope that our local Festival organisers would smarten up their act. I am presently attending the Stratford Festival, from which I hope a submission will be forthcoming to you. All the best for continued success with the journal. Yours sincerely, B a rry O ’C o n n o r C a n a d ia n C o rr e s p o n d e n t

Dear Sir, We were somewhat taken aback at Ray Stanley’s column in the June issue in which he referred to our “selfish un-co-operation” in relation to our tour of The Twenties and All That Jazz. It is a fact that the T w e n tie s company approached us a few weeks prior to their tour to see if it was practical to get out of their contract, but when we explained that we had already spent about $10,000 in initial preparation and advertising for the tour they agreed to proceed with their contract. Our relations with the company before, during and after the tour have always been most cordial and professional, so we wonder how Ray could have formed such a distorted view of the situation even allowing for the fact that his

column puts whispers and rumours ahead of facts. Sincerely, Don M a c k a y D ir e c to r , V ic to r ia n A rts C o u n c il

Dear Sir, 1 regret that Terry Vaughan is away at present and cannot reply to Marguerite Wells’ article on the Canberra Theatre Centre personally. However I would like to make the following comments. The Canberra Theatre Trust’s principle responsibility under its Ordinance is the management of the Theatre Centre — that is, basically, to provide for occupancy of its venues and to maintain these to the original standards set. The operational funds of the Theatre Centre are derived as follows — 53% from revenue and 47% from subsidy. Secondary to this function the Ordinance requires the Trust to promote and encourage the arts. However the financial structure set up by the Government did not allow for the continuous funding of these aims. In 1965 the Trust was given $8800, non-replenishable, which it nurtured and nourished until it was finally used up in 1978. The main source for entrepreneurial funds over the last nine years has been a variable entrepreneurial grant from the Australia Council. This has been used to bring all types and styles of presentations to Canberra which for financial reasons would not otherwise be seen here; also, to encourage and support events emanating from within the community itself. From July 1977 to June 1978 we presented 35 different attractions including the Pram Factory’s production of “A Stretch of the Imagination”, with Max Gillies, and the Fortune Theatre lunchtime season in the foyer of the Canberra Theatre. By the way, the Fortune Theatre wants to play in the foyer and we are planning another season in September/October. Also, the Jigsaw Company is currently playing a foyer season as well. Usage and attendances did decline from 1975 to 1977 in company with the general economy and theatrical events throughout Australia. I cannot speak for the economy but I am happy to state that both usage and attendances at the Canberra Theatre Centre increased in 1977/78 to 504 usages and 223,365 attendance. As regards “Witold Gombrowicz in Buenos Aires” by Roger Pulvers; we were approached by Grapevine Productions to present this play for a season at the Playhouse. We suggested that it would do better in the environment of the (Continued next page)

Ray Stanley’s

WHISPERS RUMOURS 8tr\ FACTS (f r -0 0 Sydney may be ahead of London with its pro­ duction of Dracula, but it looks ultimately as though the vampire cult will be bigger in England. On November 11 the Dracula Society will be holding its annual dinner when guest of honour will be veteran actor Hamilton, who toured around England in the play for many years. Then George Chakiris is due to co-star with Roy Dotrice in a completely new stage version, with plans in hand to present the Broadway version we’re seeing, with Terence Stamp mentioned for the title role. Frank Langella (who’s been playing it on Broadway) is

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR CONT’D campus and the Director agreed. However, we offered to support it with a guarantee of $500. This offer and the money was accepted and we still think it was the right course to take. Canberra is still only a city of 200,000 and the Theatre Centre has to endeavour to provide a varied diet for the entire population. However the Canberra Theatre Trust awaits with interest the outcome of the Inquiry Into Drama in the A.C.T. (on which two of its members are sitting) as recommendations may well influence the future role of the Theatre Centre in regard to drama. For the 1978 calendar year, our entrepreneurial funds totalled $32,000 and this doesn’t go very far. The Trust would certainly like to do more and is making representations for a larger sum next year. Yours sincerely, D .M . P u rn e ll C h a irm a n CANBERRA TH EA TR E TRUST

Dear Sir, Wanting only that my plays get produced and that I continue to develop as a playwright I wasn’t all that fussed that you failed to mention in your April “Comment” that I was awarded the National Critics’ Circle gong for the ACT.

due in London in October to star in the film version, with Lord Olivier as Van Helsing. And of course Ken Russell is to direct yet another film version. Hear there’s a possibility Glynis Johns will star in a Broadway version of the film Harold and Maude...Seems Liv Ullmann will probably be taking singing lessons whilst she’s in Australia, preparing for the Broadway lead in Richard Rodgers’ Mama...There’s talk all over again of James Stewart coming here to play in Harvey...And the search for a lead for Ben Travers’ The Bed Before Yesterday still continues. The multi-talented Nick Enright, having made the translation of the MTC’s Electro with Frank Hauser, has followed this with the translation of The Servant o f Two Masters with Ron Blair for the South Australian Theatre Company...! am told by a quite reliable source that a name to remember for the future is Taya Straton, that she will quite likely be another Jill Perryman...Shaving of Hayes Gordon’s locks for his role in Annie is likely to be caught for posterity by the TV cameras. Apparently tentative title for Reg Livermore’s next show is Sacred Cows. Sounds vaguely familiar. Was one of Jon Finlayson’s revues years ago called that?...Understand it was Ira

Levin who told Kenn Brodziak Patrick MacNee would be the best possible lead for the Australian production of Death Trap. Am tipping an unknown Australian will be cast in the other leading role and make a big impact...Quote from Lionel Bart: “America is where I earn my living. Britain is where I pay my tax”... The Green Guide of The Age recently listed a radio play as June and the Pastrycook by Sean O'Casey... Confusion being caused in Adelaide by Wal Cherry’s newly formed Australian Stage Company as another organisation in the city is called The Stage Company. Those who can recall Frank Thring’s Arrow Theatre days will be saddened at the death in London at sixty five of actor-director Frederick Farley. After a period of pioneering work in the New Zealand theatre, he came to Melbourne in 1950 and during his time there directed Jimmy Hanley in No Trees in the Street. Jessie Matthews in Larger Than Life and Ralph Petersen’s The Square Ring. His most recent achievement was taking over from Alan Webb in the West End production of The Kingfisher and acting in the three-hander with Ralph Richardson and Celia Johnson, following this with direction of a national tour of the same play.

You did however mention all the State awards. Nor was I all that put out that last September you didn’t publish the crit of my new play The Return o f Ida Mulloy (produced by Canberra Rep). But then on reflection I thought I’d write to you so that the people who have encouraged me in my work, will know that I’m alive and well and living (productively) in Canberra. Yours faithfully,

APOLOGY Apologies to Ray Stanley, who wrote the review of Electro in the August issue, not, of course, David Parker, who took the photos.

M ik e G ile s , F is h e r, A C T

Dear Sir,

Last month the Company of Players, a constituted part of the State Theatre of South Australia, held one of its regular meetings, it was an extraordinary meeting, in as much as actors, box office, workshop, scenic and lighting design staff were there to discuss the appointment of the new artistic director. It formed a working party to draft a report of the attitudes expressed at the meeting and this report will be presented to the board by our representative. The Company of Players has a representative on the board, with full voting powers. Extraordinary? A blue print for other companies? Yours faithfully, R obin B o w e rin g S ta te C o m p a n y of S o u th A u s tra lia

THE PERFORMING ARTS BOOKSHOP 232 Castlereagh Street, Sydney. 2000. Telephone: Patrick Carr [02] 233 1658 THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978


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THREE YEAR DIPLOMA COURSES for the professional theatre in

ACTING TECHNICAL PRODUCTION DESIGN There is a one year post-graduate STUDENT DIRECTORS COURSE for people already experienced in Professional, University or Amateur Theatre. Applications for all courses beginning March, 1979 are now invited. Applications close October 1st, 1978. Auditions and interviews will be held in all capital cities in

Australia between November and December, 1978. Enquiries should be addressed to:-

COMMUNICATING ARTS We believe that the arts have an important role in the community. All Australians regardless of socio-economic level, language, culture or geographical position, should have ready access to the arts, either in an active or passive form. Such a movement is beginning in this country, but it must not have its development characterised by isolation and parochialism. A network for communicating and sharing must be developed. We hope that Communicating Arts will help create this network. It will exchange, report, confer, record, innovate, criticise, document, review, philosophise and lead. Communicating Arts is sponsored by national arts associations which represent a spectrum of art forms. They are the National Association of Drama in Education. The Australian Association of Dance Education, the Australian Society of Music Education, the Art Craft Teachers’ Association, the Association of Teachers of Film and Video and the Australian Society for Education Through the Arts. SUBSCRIPTION ORDER FORM IS FOR NON-MEMBERS. SEND TO: THE EDITORS, COMMUNICATING ARTS, 2 ORFORD ROAD, ASHBURTON, VIC. 3147



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La Stupenda

Mastery or Myth? A personal assessment of opera’s superstar by Greg Curran. Listen to a batch of “ Stupenda” fans, and you’ll quickly come to believe expres­ sive singing began and ended with M aria Callas. The old refrain, Callas for acting, Sutherland for the vocal thrills, is still being warbled, still passing for thoughtful confabulation in certain dress circles. Which is a pity, because, apart from the quaint notion that the singing and acting of opera can be effectively separated, the distinction is hardly fair to either lady. To those whose minds are not closed to a broad view of what vocal beauty can be, M adame Callas was, more often than not, the voice beautiful; while our Joan, hailed as “ great” so long and so mindlessly on the basis of her fabled virtuosity, may now, on the strength of her recent Sydney Normas, and (I suspect) a deepening awareness of what the tragic heroine in general (and Norma in particular) is all about, have it in her to be a more complete artist, to be really great. One prime fact should immediately be made clear. Expression in singing, and particularly opera, was always sought after. Benigne de Bacilly, one of the first French theoreticians of singing, divided voices into two categories; the beautiful ones and the good ones. The good ones are those which, without any natural gifts, are nevertheless capable, thanks to technique,

of expressing all a performance requires. The naturally beautiful ones, on the other hand, content to wallow in their own beauty, rarely produce anything of signifi­ cance and are often boring. Foreward to Paris in the 1830’s and Vincenzo Bellini, great composer of La Sonnambula, I Puritani, and Norma. Bellini's friend, Ferdinand Hiller, has left impressions of musical evenings, at which Bellini and Chopin were present. On one of these occasions, Hiller tells us, Bellini sang some of his own compositions “ in a voice less full of sound than of feeling ” (my italics). G uiditta Pasta, favourite of the composer, the diva who created the diverse roles of Norma and Sonnambula, had, according to the critic Chorley, a voice that was, originally anyway, “hard, uneven and unbeautiful” . Groves Musical Dictionary states that “ her voice was not absolutely free from imperfection but the individ­ uality of her impersonations and the peculiar and penetrating expression of her singing made the severest critic forget any faults of production in the sympathy and emotion she irresistibly created” . Another Norma, the “ fabulous” M alibran, contemporary of Pasta and Bellini, and the singer to whom, in our own day, M aria Callas has been most com­

pared, was an artist of great presence and force, but, again according to Grove, her charm “ seems to have lain chiefly in the peculiar colour and unusual extent of her voice, and in her excitable tem peram ent... that her voice was not faultless either in quality or uniformity seems certain” . Giulia Grisi, another contemporary, a gentler type of singer by all accounts, with apparently more conventional (and “perfect”) vocal resources, nevertheless appears to have striven for expression at all costs. She was the first Elvira in Bellini’s last opera I Puritani. In London (1835) the critic of The Spectator pays tribute to her acting in the role; “ In the forelorn being who stands before us with dim and rayless eyes, sunk and meaning­ less features and a voice hollow, trem u­ lous, hoarse, not a vestige remains of the lovely and splendid creature we had seen an instant before” . Composers other than Bellini preferred dram atic truth to some spurious vocal perfection. Verdi, for instance, who stated that “ his” Lady M acbeth should have a voice “ harsh, stifled and hollow . . . a demonic quality” . Richard W agner said of Wilhelmine Schroder-Devrient, the great Leonore of Fidelio, creator of Senta in The Flying Dutchman, first Venus in THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978


“She needs Franco Zeffirelli again to direct her and Tullio Serafin to come backfrom the dead.

Photo: William Moseley Tannhäuser “ Because we have celebrated you as a singer, I have been asked whether your voice was really exceptional, the question implying that this was the essential p o in t. . . If I were to be asked this question today I would give roughly this reply; no, she had no voice; but she knew so well how to handle her breathing and thereby to create, with so marvellous a musicianship, the true soul of a woman, that one thought no longer of singing nor of voice” . T h at’s rather a good description of Callas as well, and indeed the conductor Tullio Serafin her discoverer, who was also a major influence on Rosa Ponselle (great Norma of the twenties) and an early “ encourager” of Miss Sutherland herself, has echoed Wagner in his comments on the Italian tenor Aureliano Pertile (a contemporary of Gigli). “ I never actually noticed that Pertile had a voice. I don’t know why, but evening after evening I have only heard the voices of Faust and Lohengrin, of Des Grieux and Edgardo, and so on. I’ve heard as many voices as there are parts in his repertory” . Which may be just another way of putting what Ernest Newman, the great English critic, said about Ponselle’s Norma” , Mme Ponselle proves to us that the finest singing, given a good voice to begin with, comes from the constant play of a fine mind on the inner meaning of the music” . Another Norma, she may have been the greatest of all; Lilli Lehmann, turn of the century soprano with a phenomenal repertoire including Isolde and Brunnhilde (in that respect, at least, she was the Callas of her day). Yet, according to the Viennese critic Hanslick, “ Nature denied 12


her penetrating strength and sum ptuous­ ness of voice . . . but endowed her with a personality predestined not only for the stage but particularly tragic and noble roles” . One might almost say Joan Sutherland is Lilli Lehmann in reverse. From the beginning of her international career the voice was a great one, with subject to few limits in the m atter of top range, flexibility (decorations handled with consummate ease) and quality. The trouble was that, from the outset she hardly seemed to have much tem pera­ mental affinity with the tragic heroines she portrayed. For a start, she was monum ent­ ally placid onstage. And the problem was not confined to physical acting, or even vocal acting. It was more fundamental. W hat do I mean? Well, in the first place, while her tone was not blanched like the whistle-stop, tweety-pie coloraturas of 19th century French opera, it was light, and though bright, which was usually attractive, it was soft grained which was often a drawback. Moreover there was a tendency toward a single colouration, a monochromatic effect. Though the voice was clearly capable of darker colours, it did not naturally favour the deeper shades. Com­ pared to the dark “ mysterious” beauty of the voice of Rosa Ponselle (described by JB Steane in The Grand Tradition as port wine, roses, pansies, velvet, cream), the delicate colourations and the light and shade of M ontserrat Caballe, the vigour and attack of two such Normas as Anita Cerquetti and Elena Souloitis (paid for alas in short careers) not to mention the vehemence, majesty and supreme author­ ity of M aria Callas (even at times of great

vocal stress), La Stupenda seemed-in a word — colourless. At the same time, whether by nature, or inadvertence, or a deliberate intent to “ cover” , at all costs she seemed to have some difficulty in proper production of the voice, in th at area largely free of the frills and flounces of singing — i.e. the middle voice. Flere the following were sometimes lacking, either singly or in combination a feeling for pure line; a forward limpid, even stream of tone closely knit phrasing steadiness and clarity of enunciation the ability to sing simply and sound natural. Considerations such as these are often of param ount importance in what is, after all, the vocal heartland of singing. In this singer they were sometimes curiously lacking. This m eant that, as well as often being colourless, the singing was wordless as well. The mushy mouthed, bubble gummy effect of this odd voice production provided a predominance of vocalaise. And without clear diction there could be little in the way of vocal acting, expression, communication, drama. Over the years as Lucia, Amina, Elvira, Violetta (in Oz 1965 that really was interminable), Marguerite, Semiramis et al, the singer always seemed pretty much the same. All that changed were the costumes. Performances I’ve seen were usually enlivened by the physical beauty of the vocal instrum ent (something which, however, quickly runs out of interest) plus fantastic bouts of virtuosity at the top of the range (being also of a limited fascination, they soon out­ stay their welcome). Was Sutherland then, doomed forever to be the “boring” voice of the 17th Century, Bacilly previously

“Thesinger always seemed pretty much the same. A ll that changed were the costumes. ”

Photo: William Moseley mentioned, one of those voices “content to wallow in their beauty” ? In London 1967 the diva sang Norma for the first, I think, of two series of performances in that city to date (the other was in 1970). Harold Rosenthal Editor of Opera Magazine, said this “ Not only were there long stretches in this opera which were boring, in which Miss Sutherland just did not rivet one’s attention . . . but this was the kind of performance which must surely have given the impression to those who did not know the opera that it is not a particularly good piece, and that Bellini was not a dramatic composer” . Rosenthal’s words are of more than routine interest in Sydney 1978. The critics here have variously attributed the longeurs to-faults in the libretto, and the music, that the opera has for a long time been buried (which is nonsense), that the piece is hackneyed, that the production is at fault (and, to my mind, it is certainly a bad one) and so on and so forth. Anything to avoid saying something obvious to a child; that any boredom felt with Norma is more likely to lie at the feet of the Druid priestess herself, more likely to arise from a lack of consistent, convincing interpret­ ation from the opera’s central figure. Nothing like this was suggested. Miss Sutherland, a national treasure, has been, as always, pelted with local superlatives. Can th at damehood be far off? Yet M ontserrat Caballe, another famed practitioner of Norma, got pasted in some quarters for the dramatic defects in her recent performances (at Covent Garden). The critic of The Sunday Times (London) said “ I made the mistake of first seeing Norma with Callas in her blazing prime —

a standard of dram atic and musical intelligence and commitment compared with which her successors at Covent Garden have come nowhere. Caballe, unlike Sutherland, at least gives a sem­ blance of the great issues of passion and patriotism that are at stake; but, until the final scene, her singing in the big numbers had little of Sutherland’s great accomp­ lishment of indeed, of her own, while its lack of involvement and purpose made the recitatives seem interminable” . Well th a t’s one critic’s view, based, one supposes, in Sutherland’s case, on the memory of those 1967 and 1970 perform ­ ances. Despite what I’ve said about the Sutherland voice, despite the stretches of dullness in the Sydney performances, I think Miss Sutherland, (whose Norma has become a real curate’s egg) would make a much stronger impression in London now. Her local efforts show a much more thoughtful singer, an artist coming to grips with her powers as never before. There is a clarity in the recitatives, a feeling for phrases, an overall authority which bodes well. Perhaps, at fifty two, the singer no longer feels so confident about her top (though she has few worries on that score) and has other priorities. Perhaps she now sees her goal as a singing actress. Whatever, she has conquered with (well almost) the centre of her voice. Her singing of Casta Diva was lovely, she was touching in the scenes with the children, had a go at raging at her lover, the deserting Roman proconsul Pollione, and tried for real meaning in the string of great numbers that make up the last act. Thus In Mia Man (in which Norma has Pollione in her power) was gripping, Qual Cor Tradisti (in

which she reveals her selfless love) moving, and the finale, in which the mighty Priestess goes to her death, appropriately noble. But, and it is a big but, does she yet command the role with her whole being? — there were patches of foggy and indistinct singing, a lot that was tentative, too much stop-go in the physical acting (she needs Franco Zeffirelli again to direct her and Tullio Serafin to come back from the dead and conduct one of his great expansive performances). The whole evening lacked an overriding feeling of inevitability. A truly great Norma should appear to be possessed, caught up, swept away, by the role. Maybe Joan Sutherland, who has never seemed so much at home on stage as now, soon will be. I hope so, for I would like to really like her, to be completely satisfied for once. As Harold Rosenthal also said “ The great Normas of operatic history have, to a greater or lesser extent all been great singing actresses, mistresses of dramatic declamation and outstanding personalities — Lilli Lehmann, Rosa Ponselle, M aria Callas” . Will Joan Sutherland join this august group? I doubt it, but she has surprised me this time, and may again. In 1972, in a farewell to the students of a master class at the Juillard School New York, the late M aria Callas said “ The only thanks I want is diction, feeling, and expression” Will “ our” diva ever be able to say that? Perhaps. Time will tell. In the meantime, constant affirmations and re­ affirmations of her “greatness” by the Australian press miss the point, and are hardly conducive to an atmosphere in which art can truly flourish. THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978




Wal Cherry looks at the aims and uses of ‘political’ theatre



couples present His Majesty bids me to convey his gracious good wishes. The Chorus sang: Injustice should be spared from persecution: Soon it will freeze to death, for it is cold. Think of the blizzards and the black confusion Which in this vale of tears we all behold. And the moral was drawn. When we were rehearsing The Three­ penny Opera for New Opera, now the State If the audience got the point it displayed Opera of South Australia, in late massive unconcern. The company November and December 1975, some remained as it was. No Liberal voter got momentous political events overtook the upset at having to perform this kind of Australian people. The Governor General thing. The aesthetic and theatrical values sacked the W hitlam Government and by of the piece were enhanced and we felt a European standards we ought to have been little smug about our relevance. W e’d done in political chaos. The fact that we were our bit. not, disturbed ‘the left’ and relieved ‘the There is a sense in which all theatre is right’. The effect on the company in politics and it can certainly be judged and rehearsal was exactly this, although the analysed from that point of view. But there left protested volubly and the right tended can be no justification for examining to remain quiet. John Willett and I theatre as politics without also examining its political function. How successful is thought we would take advantage of the situation to make a point with local political theatre as politics? reverberations. We had already placed the The answer is not very successful at all. There are limited unspecific claims which play in an Australian social-political can be made for the political effectiveness context and now seized on the opportunity of committed theatre. You can claim that to flex our political muscles, have some fun political theatre provides a rallying point and perhaps demonstrate the spirit of Brecht. We brought the text back closer to for like-minded people. You can claim that at certain places and times it has the original meaning which Brecht, by the incited relatively small numbers of people wildest stretch of his imagination, could to civic dem onstrations and riots, as in the never have expected to refer directly to life. Federal Theatre days of Welles and You will recall that The Threepenny Housman, or the turbulent times of the Opera ends when the hero/villian Abbey. It can generate lawsuits which M acheath is reprieved as he stands on the attract publicity, and in the days of gallows. A messenger arrives from the modern communications it can sometimes Queen (King in our version) and interferes generate a modicum of public attention. with due process. M acheath stands But largely the committed political theatre immune. We thought there was an easily conducts its business, both imaginative made political point in there somewhere and financial, with the converted or the and John Willett made it with a few deft stokes of the translator’s pen..P eachum indulgent — the happily unthreatened upper-middle class which seems not to said: care in the least that M elbourne’s Aust­ Dear audience, we now are coming to ralian Performing Group, or any other The point where we must hang him by theatrical faction, should survive happily the neck on the taxpayer’s money. Because it is the Christian thing to do The theatre is not a very satisfactory Proving that men must pay for what place in which to be politically active. The they take. results are simply not there. The politically But as we want to keep our fingers clean disadvantaged and disenfranchised people And you are people we can’t risk in A ustralia are those who live in poverty, offending deprivation and neglect and for the theatre We thought we’d better do without this to pose as an instrum ent which can scene effectively help these people is shamefully And substitute instead a different self-indulgent. The theatre can and should ending. be able to dem onstrate this neglect, this poverty, this disillusionment but the Why hang Macheath? We know that theatre exists on its sense of fun, of men are all celebration, and pretty soon the fact of For crime so long as it is nice and legal. poverty becomes theatrical “ content” , the So let’s refer this to the Governorplay is experienced at the level where cast General and audience can in their own way feel And may his answer to us be Vice Regal. guilty, an d /o r good about their personal A Governor-General, resplendent in feelings aroused by the performance. appropriate plumage, dropped from the In this area we are left in little doubt flies and sang: about the political roles. The audience is I bring a special order from our beloved meant to feel guilty and the performers, by King to have Captain M acheath set at virtue of being politically active, are meant liberty forthwith — all cheer — as it’s to feel good. the coronation, and raised to the Of course, there’s nothing necessarily hereditary peerage. Cheers. The castle wrong about that. And there’s nothing of M armarel, likewise a pension of ten necessarily right about it either. W hat has thousand pounds, to be his in usufruct happened is that an event has occurred in until his death. Cheers. To any bridal a public place from which a relatively

small num ber of people has derived pleasure. In the theatre politics rapidly enlarges its role as the source of enthusiasm and soon becomes part of the achieved aesthetic. Theatre is to politics as knitting at the tumbrils was to execution by guillotine during the French revolution. Something to be getting on with while you’re waiting. T hat said it might be interesting to ask what impact modern political ideologies have had on the theatre in Australia. In the major subsidised theatre the effect has been negligible. The repertoire has been expanded to include some quarrelsome works from the left. Programme notes and actors biographies make passing refer­ ences such as: “ Favourite hero — M ao” and occasionally companies such as the South Australian Theatre Company under George Ogilvie’s regime talk as though the middle-class audience needs to be educated culturally and politically and by God they’re going to do it. T hat’s about as far as it goes. In the smaller theatres a number of political gestures are made but the achievements can be measured in good old uncommitted terms. The major achieve­ ment of the Australian Performing Group and it is indeed a major achievement, lies in the writers it has given to the Australian theatre. It has had no discernible effect on Australian politics but its methods of work have loosened up a certain amount of theatrical practice and it has acted as an excellent foil for the companies which receive larger subsidies. It has also provided a life-style focus for a number of Melbourne citizens. It also believes in what it does. The weakness of the APG’s position is reflected in a production of The M other which I saw there in 1975. In that play by Brecht there is a scene in which a schoolteacher, who is by no means politically “ correct” , is recruited by a revolutionary cell to teach the members to read and write. When members of the cell wish to spend their time discussing the political implications of the school­ teacher’s position the Mother brings them back to the fact that learning to read and write provides a basic revolutionary tool. Now being able to communicate clearly through a voice and a body which works specifically for the actor is a basic theatrical tool and no amount of “ political correctness” can replace it. If the per­ formers are not capable of specificity then audiences and performers share vague generalisations which, if they are all of one mind, make them feel cosy and warm and right. But any revolution depends upon either a stunning example of “correctness” , or the ability to convince enough people by argument, or the ability to sweep people along emotion­ ally (Hitler), or force of arms. The production I saw was capable of none of these alternatives. The actors had no discernible communicative skills and no threatening status as guerilla fighters having a night off. As politics it was a fizzer. As theatre it was less than convincing. As art — well, it wasn’t. The other effect of political thinking has been in the community theatre area where

some companies have tried to involve the community in the process of making theatre, and some communities have tried to do this for themselves. Many of these activities have no political overtones and are simply part of the self-expressive, satisfaction giving, do-it-your-selfing, cultural grass-rooting which pleases all of us, including politicians, because it threat­ ens none of us. Some companies do have political ambitions. In this they are up against the interface of arts and education where politics has a most uneasy role. Politics implies public discipline and private freedom. Art implies private discipline and public freedom. “Cultural” education, more and more, implies selfexpression. Art implies skill. Education implies shared knowledge. But our cult­ ural education has veered away from the shared experience of mutually understood inform ation to the imposition, on our appreciation, of layer upon layer of privately held opinion. No wonder the arts have taken to half-digested ideologies. W hat have the arts and education left us to share? Ancient imagery, traditional experience, has been shelved by education in favour of undistinguished personal experience. Commercial pop, political pop, advertis­ ing, inane television and the easily read paperback have replaced the old ways of sharing. How can people read Marx or Brecht or Mao without an understanding of their heritage? The theatre can help us to share the experiences we value, to celebrate our lives, to laugh at our inadequacies, to focus on those significant hum an actions which are repeated in all political systems and to direct attention to the possibility of a world whose ideals are based on mercy, pity, peace and where as few people as possible wish that they had never been born. Ideology which helps us focus on those goals is worth more than a passing thought. But most ideology simply serves as a way of rationalising our own prejudices, over-simplifications and injustices done to others and serves as a substitute for a cold hard look at the facts. If politics is the art of survival, art when it seeks to be judged in political terms is the politics of self-indulgence.

The APG’s Radioactive Horror Show — 1977. Photo: Ponch Hawkes

Scenes from Wal Cherry’s The Threepenny Opera.

FOOTNOTE: This article owes a great deal to many conversations with John Willett, who is co­ director o f the production o f “Puntila” which will occur next year.



John Hindle on the life and work of Mick Rodger

The first thing that one notices about Melbourne Theatre Company director, Mick Rodger, is his lack of pretension. He is in no way precious. Those quirks, mannerisms, foibles and idiosyncracies that are associated with the popular cari­ cature of the stage director are not found in Mick Rodger at all. Publicly, profes­ sionally and privately, he seems content to be what he is — an extremely talented, nice bloke. Right now, Rodger’s version of Alan Ayckbourn’s Just Between Ourselves is playing at the Russell Street Theatre, and Rodger is rehearsing his next play, Dylan Thom as’s Under M ilk Wood, which will open at the Athenaeum on September 5. Certainly, Mick Rodger has both hands very full at the moment. But, even when he is at his most frantic, Rodger manages to resemble my vision of Bilbo Baggins — a benign, contented, shy, 16


rather hairy, amused and gentle sort of tatterdem alion — although, to be fair, he is somewhat leaner than a thoughtful Hobbit would consider ideal. This disarm ­ ing front effectively conceals two of Rodger’s most valuable qualities; the delightful irony of his humour, and his gift of observation. Strong traces of both of these attributes can be found in a story that Rodger told me about a recent Saturday lunch at his favourite suburban pub. “ I’d eaten my meal,” he said, “ and I was sitting in the back bar, drinking wine, relaxing, and watching the people. Groups of people always fascinate me. Gradually, I began to sense an odd atmosphere. Something seemed to be happening, but I couldn’t tell what it was. “ Suddenly, an attractive blonde girl climbed onto the bar and began to take off her clothes. She danced to the music from

the radio, and very well, too. Then a man joined her, and the pair of them did a brilliant send-up of a bum p-and-grind strip. They were beautiful, very funny. The lovely thing about it was th at the perform ance was natural. I know that I couldn’t have directed them to do a routine like th at so perfectly. It was pure theatre. The people in the bar just loved it. “There were encores, of course, and during one of these I left the bar and took myself to the lavatory. One of the old, obese, beery chaps from the front bar was there, a local. He made it quite clear that he abhorred the way I was dressed — my high boots and fur jacket seemed to confuse him somewhat — and he started to insult me. First he called me a ‘trendy’ and when this didn’t work he offered me his ultim ate scorn and called me an ‘effing cowboy’. “ My God! I had to resist an urge to take him into the back bar with me. If my clothes upset the poor chap so much, the scene in the back bar would have made him pass out!” Mick Rodger started his life in England, thirty five years ago. “ I was born during a heavy blitz,” he says. “ In Crewe, of all places. Generally, people only go through Crewe when they’re on their way to somewhere else.” Such was the case with the infant Rodger, who moved to Birmingham when he was three. He remembers with affection the Sunday nights that he spent in the Bull Ring, the hot chestnuts, the speakers and the atmosphere of street theatre. Rodger passed the 11+examinations (which he regards as iniquitous) rather well, and won a scholarship to a gram m ar school. This surprised his entire family, because he had shown no great potential at primary school. (“ The family thought I was a dum b kid,” he remembers, “ and I tended to agree with them .”) In those days, candidates for 11+exams had to nominate three schools th at they would like to attend if they were successful, and Rodger selected Handsworth Gram m ar, a Church of England school with an awesome academic record, as his first choice. He did this partly because of the whimsy involved in the notion that a ‘dumb kid’ could win his way to Handsworth, and he was amazed when he was accepted. In 1956, Rodger’s parents decided to emigrate to Australia, and the family settled in Adelaide. Inevitably, Rodger found his way to Adelaide University, where he enrolled as a medical student. However, he found the pressure of the first year’s work to be so heavy that the course precluded any activity that was not directly related to study. He held the opinion th at university life should offer more than hard work, th at the ancillary attractions of the campus were quite as vital for a rounded education as were formal lectures and tutorials, so he quit medicine and took up a more congenial option, Honours English. “ It was quite strange,” he says. “ W hen I had been at school I’d done a lot of debating, so, when I started the arts course, I decided to join the Debating Society. I found out that there was a meeting of the society, and I went along, but I got either the date or the room

presently one of the directors at the Melbourne Theatre Company confused and I found myself at a meeting of the D ram a Society. I was immediately auditioned — as was everyone else in the room — for the forthcoming production of W ebster’s The Duchess o f Malfi. F urther­ more, I was cast as Antonio!” So, introduced to dram a and the theatre by accident, Rodger found himself totally absorbed in a completely new world. “ I never got to relax as Antonio, and I don’t even know how I went. But, subsequently, I got to enjoy the acting. It was as if I had glimpsed the Promised Land. I thought I could fly. ‘‘I spent the next four years at university doing plays, getting better and learning, and finally I finished up as Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger. I felt an enormous identification with Jimmy. The play was fairly new then — it had only just started to be done in Australia — and the experience of acting in it made me think of Osborne as a m entor.” Now, however, Osborne is something of a disappointment to Rodger. At the end of four happy years on the boards, Rodger graduated from university with first class honours. In doing so, he picked up a scholarship that carried with it a grant to be used for further study overseas, so, in 1965, Rodger went to Oxford to study for his B Litt. He missed the great wave of Oxbridge comedy talent by a couple of years and several thousand miles, and this may have contributed to his initial response to Oxford. “ At first I thought I’d got onto some kind of academic conveyer belt. The thing that turned me off most of all was the Oxford academic atmosphere, which was so stultifying. “To give an example — one of the first things that I did after I arrived was to look up the Oxford University Dramatic Society and get myself into a show. This was the year the OUDS took Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to Edinburgh. My moral tutor — he was only two years older than me — was also my English tutor, and one day he took me aside and said, ‘I understand you’re dabbling in theatric­ als?’. I adm itted that this was the case. ‘Look here,’ he said, ‘that sort of thing is all very fine for undergraduates, but post-graduates should be beyond it’. Amazing!” Undeterred by this intellectual snobbery, Rodger went on to direct plays for OUDS, and also for the Experimental Theatre Club. While his tutors were urging him towards an academic career, he was perceiving theatre to be a living thing — something to be done rather than taught. Oxford found Rodger to be an attractive person. “ One day I received the most astounding invitation, ‘to join and attend a meeting of the Fifty Five Club’. The meeting was at Christ Church, which seems to be for well-to-do public school kids and the aristocracy, and I was from Balliol, which is the intellectual college. So I had to go, just out of curiosity. “ Well, there was a dinner in progress at a long table, and around the table were assembled — I later discovered — the fifty five most im portant students of that particular year. Or, the fifty four most important, and me. God knows how I was

selected, but it was interesting. I mean, there was I — of the radical left — talking to a group of the enemy about which way to pass the port!” Strange stuff. But Oxford has its own strangeness, its own magic. The high hot summer at Oxford breeds its own unworld­ ly timelessness, and a young man, whether under- or post-graduate, can find the ambience seductive; life can hardly be real if the world is not. Rodger rode in punts, drank, revelled, and did what one would expect, and he also married. Perhaps significantly, he remembers Accident, the 1967 Joseph Losey film (that was scripted by Harold Pinter) as being an accurate record of the “ feeling” of his years at Oxford. Rodger didn’t come back to Australia immediately. By 1968, he was a profes­ sional in the business, having as one of his credentials directorial success in a student dram a competition that was judged by the egregious, ineffable Harold Hobson him ­ self. (Years later, when Rodger was a member of the audience at Stratford, he gathered his courage and approached Hobson at the theatre bar. Oh, yes! Certainly! Hobson remembered Rodger. He remembered every detail of the play in question, and he was delighted that Rodger had approached him. W hat a character . . .) In an effort to stay afloat and beat the banks at the money game, Rodger applied for — and won — a place in the ITV Trainee D irector’s scheme, a position that gave him (as he puts it) a limb in the door. He claims that he learned a lot there, but the truth is that he left the lights of television as rapidly as he could. He went back to the theatre, of course, back to the real theatre. Rodger became involved in the success of the play, Zoo Zoo Widdershins Zoo, then did Halliwell’s Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs, which had both a long title and a long run. He did The Superannuated Man in W atford, in repertory, then, in 1971, he journeyed to Tottenham Court Road and a six month liason with Charles Marowitz. Marowitz is an innovator who starts — generally — with experimental writing. He tends to restructure classics, relying on his own intellect to make expressionist (rather than impressionist) interpretations of the key characters. I have wondered whether Rodger’s recent Richard III owed anything at all to Marowitz’s influence. Whatever, Rodger remembers Marowitz as an intellectual who had some consider­ able trouble communicating his abstruse theories to the actors in his charge. Rodger was aware of the m an’s power, and of his importance, but he thought that the actors generally finished up confused when directed by him. His own lucid, friendly style may have evolved in contrast. Mick Rodger then became enthused with the idea of taking theatre into the regions, rather than working — as most of his fellow directors were — towards bringing audiences into the city. He found himself at the head of a company called East M idlands Mobile Arts (EMMA) which was dedicated to mobility and adaptability. EMMA mounted short plays,

Bruce Myles in Rodger’s Richard I I I Photo: David Parker for short runs, usually to uneducated theatre audiences, and met with success. Theatre was working for the people. Now Mick Rodger is nominally an Assistant D irector.— with Bruce Myles — of the M elbourne Theatre Company. But w hat’s in a name? Both Bruce and Mick are busy directors; both seem to have transcended the appellation “ Assistant” . Rodger takes the qualified praise of the critics for his Just Between Ourselves with the combined aplomb and resignation of the veteran (“ Basically, I’m quite pleased with the reception, although I do feel that the problem with Ayckbourne is that he’s underestimated in this country. In Melbourne, the critics seem to believe that if something is funny, it’s trivial”). His current project is Under M ilk Wood, a play that he considers to be for the ear and not for the eye. The problem, he thinks, is to find a visual balance, and, to do this, he proposes a system of half-masks for the cast (“ If we have them dashing on and off stage changing costume, the dam n thing will just become an athletic contest”). Sixty-seven charac­ ters are alluded to in the play, he says, and most of them speak. He plans to perform the play with a cast of thirteen. (The current production of Under M ilk Wood at London’s Mayfair theatre uses only six performers for the thirty nine voices that are represented.) The future? Rodger plans to take twelve months off for a serious writing project. He says that he has twenty one separate ideas for plays, and that all he wants is the time to get his head down. His current favourite of the twenty one is a play about Brecht, particularly the angry, disputatious Brecht of the later years. He relishes the idea of having time to write. Mick Rodger may well have become an academic had he not been disenchanted by some of the negative aspects of the Oxford literature hierarchy, and had he not become so enthused with the art of theatre. Rodger fell arts over Lit, as it were, and I for one am glad he did. Lynette Curran (Pam) and John Bowman (Neil) in M TC’s /u s i Between Ourselves Photo: David Parker



International W hen I last wrote for these pages I was complaining about how cold it was in New York; now I’m complaining how hot it is. The air conditioners grind away, dribbling on the passersby, but they seem to have as little effect upon the stifling heat (it’s not the heat, it’s the humility) as the heat has on the eager theatre audiences. There are few empty seats. The heat of course enhances the stench of urine on most of the streets around Times Square, and one sees many more unconscious bodies sprawled on the streets than in winter, but m utatis mutandis, everything is normal, and not to worry. As a brief post-script to my last article, one of the plays I reported on, and with faint praise, Cold Storage by Ronald Ribman, has been so successful that it moved out of the American Place Theatre and into a Broadway house and continues to be successful. Larry G elbart’s Sly Fox with George C Scott finished its Broadway run and is now on tour. Guess who’s playing Volpone now. Jackie Gleason! which strikes me as only slightly less ludicrous than the role being played by Jackie Onassis, or, to be truthful, anyone else unfortunate enough to be called Jackie. A Chorus Line is still running and is still the hottest ticket in town. Its momentum has boosted the latest hot ticket in town, Bob Fosse’s D ancin’, which fairly well establishes that dancin’ is very big in New York these days. The Wiz, the black version of The Wizard o f Oz, which also has a great deal of dancing, is still packing them in. And then attem pts have been made to resuscitate a few rotten cadavers. Carol Channing is once more doing Hello Dolly! (!), and (god, I can hardly get this one out) Yul Brynner is once more doing The King and I, which will give the H adassah ladies sport on Wednesday afternoons. The manufactured-ondem and musical Annie, which had just opened when I last wrote for Theatre Australia, is still running and is (therefore) a hit. Little O rphan Annie tee shirts and Sandy dolls are selling briskly. I shall focus my comments on three new plays: one by an American, one by a Canadian, and one by a Hungarian. They each received very good notices by the New York press. A Life in the Theatre is by David Mamet, a young Chicago playwright, who is gaining quite a following. He has had one large success, American Buffalo, and several lesser successes. A Life in the Theatre stars Jose Ferrer who, just when we thought he was out of our lives forever, like a bad penny, manages to return. The play is about two (bad) actors, one an older, experienced veteran, and the other a young m an just starting out in the profession, and their relationship backstage. W ith just that much information anyone with just a modicum of im agina­ tion could shark up some kind of story, dealing ultimately with the young m an’s rites of passage and his education in “life.” I suspect that the author may have had th at in mind, but he was not able to execute the idea. Instead they bitch at one another, the older actor accusing the younger of scene-stealing, they tell bad 18


N ew Y o rk , N ew Y o rk From Al Weiner in the U.S.A. When I last wrote for these pages I was complaining about how cold it was in New York; now I’m complaining how hot it is. The air conditioners grind away, dribbling on the passersby, but they seem to have as little effect upon the stifling heat (it’s not the heat, it’s the humility) as the heat has on the eager theatre audiences. There are few empty seats. The heat of course enhances the stench of urine on most of the streets around Times Square, and one sees many more unconscious bodies sprawled on the streets than in winter, but mutatis mutandi, everything is normal, and not to worry. jokes, and lurking somewhere just over the horizon is Profundity. John Lee Beatty’s set, which is clearly the most creative element in the produc­ tion, m ust not go unnoted. W hat we see is an excellent reproduction of “backstage” — behind the curtain, but the curtain not between the actors and us, but rather the curtain between the actors and an imaginary “ audience” upstage. Thus, when the actors “ play” a scene, it is not to us, but to the imaginary “ audience” — the actors’ backs are to us. W hen the curtain goes up we see a wonderfully simulated, blackened auditorium, complete with lighting instrum ents shining in our eyes, and even “ exit” signs. Catsplay is by the Hungarian Istvan Orkeny, and stars Helen Burns. I had heard neither of the au.thor nor the leading actress prior to seeing this show. I was attracted to it because John Simon, the critical lion of New York, who, when he prowls the streets around Shubert Alley, his jowls (he has developed them only recently) dripping with fresh blood, causes playwrights to tremble, and actors (espec­ ially actresses whose breasts are not as firm as they once may have been) to go into hysterics, declared it the best show of the season, and Ms Burns the best actress. This sam » Mr Simon had the audacity to make disparaging remarks about the elasticity of the breasts of A ustralia’s own Zoe Caldwell. But I must say this for John Simon: he is the only person ever to call me a liar in classical Greek, correct spelling, case, everything. Catsplay is a comedy about a sixty five year old widow (Ms Burns plays her at about forty five) living in Budapest. Helen Burns plays the role of Bela Orban, a woman with a huge and aggressive sense of language, and a minuscule sense of fashion. Thus when she falls in love with Victor Vivelli — “ a huge lump of pink flesh — but I love him ” — she discards her grey rag of a housefrock, her motheaten jum per, and her orthopaedic combat boots, and dons first a peach-coloured tent, with high-heeled shoes, in which she can hardly stand erect, and then an aquam arine pavilion with stripes that would enhance a football field. Thus attired, looking rather

like M aureen Stapleton only not so pretty, she goes to hear Victor sing in recital. T hat evening her best friend steals Victor away, and in utter desolation she dumps a whole bottle of what she believes are sleeping pills into a mug, then fills the mug with chicken soup, and finishes it in a gulp. “ Not b ad ,” she remarks, and then lies down to die, wriggling her toes, waiting for D eath’s icy grip to feel her up. Of course sugar pills only give you gas. There are at least two false notes, one in the direction and the other in the script. Much of the play’s dialogue takes place between Bela and her sister who is living in Germany. During these scenes the sister is onstage and they speak to one another, but they do not see one another. This can be excused, perhaps, as a mere convention, but it is very confusing in that we cannot figure out how they are communicating, whether by telephone, letter, or telepathy. Better direction could probably solve this problem. Not so easily solved, however, is the playwright’s total avoidance of the political situation in Hungary. This may make his Communist captors happy, but to us it is a patent lie. The play takes place in the 1960s, when Hungary was enslaved even more brutally than it is today, yet Mr Orkeny pretends that Bela is living in a free country, with good middle-class values, and th at she could travel to visit her sister in Germany any time she chooses. One does not think of Jack Lemmon as a stage actor, and with good reason. In a professional acting career that began in the early 1950s, M r Lemmon has appeared in only half a dozen stage plays. He is of course the bearer of that odious title, “ Superstar” . But only the title is disgust­ ing. He has created (for me) some of the most memorable film roles in recent decades. His portrayal of the drunk in Days o f Wine and Roses is indelibly etched in my memory. His junior executive with a lapsed b u t not lost sense of morality in The A partm ent was fine. I think th at Save the Tiger is one of the most under-rated films of recent years. So, Lemmon is a film actor par excellence, but can he act? Seldom are great film actors great actors, or even actors. Clark Gable or Gary Cooper could

Al Weiner : USA not, as the saying goes, act their way out of a wet paper bag. Frequently outstanding stage actors fail miserably in films. Olivier and Richardson can do both with genius, as could Brando before he misinterpreted the term genius which was so frequently applied to him, thinking it referred to his intellect. But the list is short, and one can never know whether a film actor can act until he appears on the stage. After having seen Tribute with Jack Lemmon, I must put him on the same list with Olivier, Richardson, and Brando. One day not long ago Lemmon received a m anuscript from a “ B Slade” from Edmonton, Canada. The covering note said simply, “ I wrote this for you so I thought I’d let you reject it.” B Slade happens to be Bernard Slade, the author of Same Time, Next Year, which is in its fourth year on Broadway. Such modesty is surely unAmerican. The manuscript was Tribute, and Lemmon thought enough of it, and was courageous enough to move his family from Hollywood to New York. We are the richer for that decision. Tribute is a good, solid, journeymancrafted play, traditional, perhaps a trifle too slick, and too sentimental by half, but I wouldn’t want Mr Slade to change a word of it. W hen the final curtain fell I was

sobbing like a baby, and having seen it at a matinee performance I had to walk down 47th Street in broad daylight, tears positively coursing down my cheeks. Tribute could be classified, I guess, as a serious comedy, but then all good comedies are serious; only tragedy can adm it of the frivolous. Tribute is not plotty and therefore can be quickly summarized. Scotty Templeton (he deserves a better name), played by Mr Lemmon, is a PR man who has achieved whatever material success he has won not through ability, but because everybody loves him, because just to be with him is therapeutic. His only gift, as Noel Coward said his was, is a talent to amuse. The only one who is not amused by Scotty’s antics is his son Jud, a twenty two year old, tight-assed prig. Jud, the child of a former marriage, comes to visit his father for a week between university terms. They have not seen one another for several years and do not know one another. Early in the piece we learn that Scotty is dying of leukemia. The dramatic problem, then, is that father and son must discover their love for one another before the father dies. The dramatic frame of Tribute is an evening in which all of Scotty’s friends (we the audience) rent the Brooks Atkinson Theatre and pay tribute to this dying, dear

man who has so often given himself unstintingly to us. His life is reviewed, both in direct address to us and in dram atic flashbacks. The climax of the play, which is withheld to the very last moment, is the reconciliation between father and son. In the last scene, after having begun medical treatm ent for the disease, we see the ravages of cancer in Scotty for the first time. Lemmon’s technical mastery of playing a dying man is brilliant; and a clown to the end, as he is taking his final exit, em bracing his son, his trousers fall down. Previous to this only Chaplin has been able so to confuse me that I did not know whether I was laughing or crying. I am not prepared to hail Slade a genius. It seems to me th at Lemmon’s acting is as crucial to the success of the production as the play itself, and for that reason alone I doubt th at Tribute will become part of our standard theatrical literature. But in this age when “ inspiration” , no m atter how uninspired, is valued above craftsmanship, when the “ idea” is param ount and the execution is an afterthought, M r Slade deserves our tribute. Slade and Lemmon serve one another very well, along with the fine direction of A rthur Storch. The inspiration was there, god knows, but so was the hard, careful work.

Betty Henritze and Helen Burns in Catsplay, Promenade Theatre, New York Photo: Gerry Goodstein. THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978


For the Festival of Arts


Theatre Board Grants, 1979: DANCE, DRAMA, PUPPETRY, MIME The Theatre Board has limited funds available for projects in 1979, and invites applications in the following categories: Development:

Assistance to companies, groups or individuals for special projects, particularly of an experimental or community oriented nature. Limited Life:

One or two grants may be given to groups of leading professional artists, temporarily brought together, to undertake innovative theatre performances or development activity, which is not presently possible within the normal marketing constraints o.f an ongoing theatre company. Maximum period two years; non­ renewable. Regional Theatre:

A small number of grants may be given for development of regional community theatres. Programs submitted must have both local and State government financial support. Any assistance given would be strictly on a reducing basis over a period of up to three years by which time the project would have to be fully sustained from other sources. Training:

Assistance to professional companies for the implementation of basic and advanced training programs within Australia. Priority will be given to programs providing wide access to theatre professionals. Travel/Study:

Assistance to experienced, full-time professional theatre personnel to travel overseas for work or study programs unavailable in Australia. A small number of grants are available for outstanding applicants — a maximum of $2,000 for any one grant. Drama Directors’/Theatre Designers’ Development:

Assistance to artists of proven potential for personal development programs within Australia, as drama directors or theatre designers. For details and application forms contact. The Secretary, Theatre Board, Australia Council, PO Box 302, NTH. SYDNEY, NSW 2060. Tel.: (02) 922 2122. Closing Dates: Development and Training: Regional Theatre:

15 September, 1978 — Decision advised by mid-December, 1978 15 February, 1979 — Decision advised by 30 April, 1979


Limited Life: Drama Directors’/ Theatre Designers’ Development: Travel/Study:

15 February, 1979 — Decision advised by 30 April, 1979.

Starring MR C H R I S S H A W Phone: 6627442 6627679 107 Anzac Parade K ensington 20


"With the Assistance of The Australia Council


Mercia Deane-Johns (Nellie), Irene Inescort (Widow Quin), Edwin Hodgeman (Christy Mahon), Adele Lewin (Honor Blake), Judith M cGrath (Susan Brady), and Sally Cahill (Sara Tansey) in the M TC’s Playboy O f The Western World.

A one level production TH E PLA YB O Y OF TH E W ESTER N W ORLD. RAYMOND STANLEY The Playboy o f the Western World by John Millington Synge. Melbourne Theatre Company, Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne, Vic. Opened 27 July, 1978. Director, Ray L a w le r; Designer, Ton y T rip p .

Margaret Flaherty (called Pegeen Mike), K a ty W ild; Shawn Keogh, B ruce Sp ence; Michael James Flaherty, Lloyd C u nnington; Philly Cullen, Rod W illiam s; Jimmy Farrell, A n tho ny H a w kin s; Christopher Mahon, Edw in H odgem an; Widow Quin, Ire n e In e s c o rt; Old Mahon, M ich ael Edgar; Susan Brady. Ju d ith M cG rath; Nelly, M e rc ia D eane-Johns; Honor Blake. A d ele L ew in ; Sara Tansey, S a lly C ahill; Bell Man, Lau rie Jordan; Drummer, Don B ridges; Peasants, H elen D a rlin g to n , Nina H o lg a te , E rnest W ilson.

The prospect of seeing another produc­ tion of John Millington Synge’s The Playboy o f the Western World did not exactly fill me with enthusiasm. Its coyness and naivete — like much of James Barrie’s

work — tends to make me squirm inwardly. The theme of a man supposedly hero-worshipped because he has killed his father, then scorned by his lady love when it turns out he hasn’t, then again about to be lynched by the locals (led by said girl) when his second attem pt appears more successful, is a difficult one for me to swallow. Yet despite its improbabilities it was based on events related to Synge. The real virtues of The Playboy are of course Synge’s wonderful lyrical and almost musical phrases and word imagery. To do full justice to this really calls for a full-blooded Irish company: then it can seem an exhilerating experience. Failing such a company, I would far rather read the play in private. To add further to my dismay, on studying the programme I discovered young Christy was to be played by an actor twice the correct age, his father by someone I would imagine to be younger than the Christy, and the Widow Quin — described by Synge ‘as about 30’, by an actress (not to be too ungallant) rather

Photo: David Parker.

more than that. All in all then my vibes were far from favourably inclined towards the produc­ tion. I wish, in retrospect, I could report the end result was complete captivation. But alas, no. W hat emerged was a very competent straight-forwarded staging of the play by Ray Lawler. For those unfamiliar with The Playboy — if able to follow fully the sometimes dithering Irish accents — a workmanlike interpretation was provided. To me it appeared very much a one-level production, rather uninspiring, and with hardly any sparks generating. Different reactions might have been experienced by those coming fresh to the play. I hope so. Judging from the sparseness of the first night audience, there must have been several others sharing my apprehensionsMy forebodings about the casting were swept aside — at least in the cases of Christy and the Widow Quin. The Old Mahon of Michael Edgar I was less happy with: despite a greying beard his face still looked too young, his general demeanour not really convincing, nor was he aged THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978


enough vocally. The Playboy is usually spitfire Pegeen Mike’s play — the girl who, despising her local intended, seems all set to mate with Christy. It is Pegeen who has dominated other productions I have seen, and seems to have in all the well known productions of the play. Maire O ’Neill — with whom Synge was in love — created the role, and almost certainly it was written with her in mind. It is a p art which Siobhan M cKenna has played on several occasions, and been referred to by Irish critics as ‘the definitive Pegeen M ike’. I personally found Katy W ild’s interpret­ ation far too uncertain and subdued, seeming sometimes to take too backward a seat in proceedings. Maybe this was the

effect Lawler intended. Certainly this ‘downgrading’ of Pegeen increased the stature of Christy, and it was quite easy for that excellent actor Edwin Hodgeman (looking hardly a day over twenty!) to dominate and present on several occasions the evening’s only fire­ works. Had he been matched in perform ­ ance by the rest of the cast (indeed his scenes alone with Irene Inescort as Widow Quin came near to being highlights), then a really memorable evening may have resulted. I doubt if many (or any) other produc­ tions of this play could boast such an excellent handsome set of a tavern as that designed by Tony Tripp (howbeit very ‘new’ looking and hardly conjuring up a

Gradually gathers depth and strength

representation. In farce comically warped and deceitful bourgeois people are ru th ­ lessly, relentlessly thrown on their own wits. They cope with the increasingly impossible through scintillating ingenuity and insolent face. Characters take it on the nose and bounce back. The sufferers are not tolerated. The sufferers and fools are those who lose face or evince honest intent. The rules of the game are the game. Sincerity entails immediate disqualifica­ tion. Just Between Ourselves is not a farce. It is sincere. Yet it is still light and serious, and becomes less light and more serious as the yarn unfolds. The sufferers are seen increasingly to suffer: in this case Vera, Dennis’s psychologically ataxic and crum ­ bling wife. Just Between Ourselves is a cunningly crafted and deceptively bland piece of comic realism. After a creakingly expository, padded and trite first scene, the play gradually gathers depth and

JU S T B ETW EEN OURSELVES JACK HIBBERD Just Between Ourselves by Alan Ayckbourn. Melbourne Theatre Company, Russell Street Theatre, Melbourne, Vic. Opened July 18 1978. Director, M ick Rodger; Designer, Kim C a rp e n te r. Dennis, D e nnis O lsen ; Vera, Jan F rie d l; Marjorie, M ary W ard ; Neil, John B o w m an; Pam. L yn ette C u rra n .


I am no expert on Alan Ayckbourn’s work. Indeed before Just Between Our­ selves, I had neither read nor seen a single Scarborough farce. Farce, especially in the French tradition, is a lofty form. It is an edifying antidote to the ordered, sane and eminently reasonable world of natural

John Bowman (Neil), Dennis Olsen (Dennis), Jan Friedl (Vera) and Lynette Curran (Pam) in MTC’s/u s t Between Ourselves. Photo: David Parker.



‘lived in ’ atmosphere). Cut away halfway along the back wall, it provided an outside stairway and wall and sparse vegetation (as well as sky and moon), thus giving extra acting areas. Many in the audience must have puzzled over words and phrases which frequently made it seem it was being performed in a foreign language. Words such as Shebeen, loy, poteen, streeleen, banbhs, cnuceen, supeen, turbary, curagh, boreen, drouth, skelp, hoosh, etc. It might have been useful had the programme included a glossary similar to that printed when the St M artin’s Theatre Company (then the Little Theatre) staged the play in 1961. strength. The dram a concentrates on two middlesuburban couples, Neil and Pam, Vera and Dennis, along with Dennis’s emotional piranha of a mother, Marjorie. Neil is pissy and recessive, Dennis is pissy and manic, a braying middleclass twit and coward who spends most of his time tinkering in a garage/workshop. The women are suffocated by and alienated from their codless spouses. Pam responds by becoming ironic, tart and independent. Vera, with the extra burden of the possessive and captious Marjorie, cracks and retreats into herself. The dom inant physical image of the play is a small black car standing in the middle of the garage. It is V era’s hardly used and neglected vehicle; it is for sale. Neil wishes to purchase the car for his wife, who has no need of the thing, and sees it as a token gesture towards independence. The garage/ workshop assumes all the overtones of a locked male world — the main portals are jam m ed so it is impossible to take the car for a test drive; the other door also jams and can only be opened with considerable force. Dennis’s m other is one of those unfort­ unate women for whom no wife is perfect enough for her son; she has never allowed the umbilical cord to be cut; worse still, she has wrapped it tightly around his personality and manhood. He dances to her every tune in a perpetual state of escapist semi-hysteria, mulishly laughing at Vera’s growing inadequacies, particu­ larly her neurotic spilling and dropping of everything within sight. Dennis’s thickness is both demented and cruel. At the end of the play he offers his wife a miserable little birthday cake with a single candle. She blows it out, and so snuffs out her spirit. Paradoxically, Dennis has just freed the garage doors and offered the car as a gift to Pam and Neil. It is clearly too late. The stationary car, as female urban soul and hum an spirit, will certainly gather dust, rust, and disin­ tegrate for the rest of time. Not a cheerful play, but effective in that its themes are suavely and nimbly integrat­ ed there for the apprehension and not schematically or tendentiously imposed. It is an acid critique of the stultifying security-obsessed urban womb which makes passionless eunuchs of its sons and drives its bewildered daughters to the wall.

Theatre/NSW It is the bourgeois pen of the unweaned male chauvinist piglet. Admittedly, Pam gains some measure of freedom and selfhood at the end, yet will remain somewhat compromised as long as she is tethered to her indefatigable wet of a spouse. Foppery and bootless gags are kept to a refreshing minimum in this production. The cast are scrupulous in their orchest­ rated deference to the essential seriousness of the play. The comedy only flags early on where it lacks sting and combat, a fault possibly more in the writing than perform ­ ance and direction. Dennis Olsen, whose conception of Dennis is brilliant, tended to overshoot and misconnect the night I saw the production, largely in the first half. This quibble aside, the whole of the cast is much more than satisfactory. If anyone has to be plucked out of an even team, it must be Jan Friedl for her strong, assured, affecting and ultimately poignant Vera. Just Between Ourselves is an excellent play with which to needle and confront the two-car margarine-loving Lumpen of the MTC.


Commercial success and dull routine CROW N M A T R IM O N IA L H A Y FEVER GREG CURRAN

Crown Matrimonial by Royce Ryton. Peter Williams Productions. York Theatre, Seymour Centre. Sydney NSW. Opened 27th July. 1978. Director. P e te r W illiam s; Designer, John H all; Lighting design, Joe De A b reu. Mabell. F ay e Donaldson; Queen Mary, June S a lter; Margaret Wyndham, K ay Eklund ; John, B rian H in slew o o d ; King Edward VIII, John H a m b lin; Princess Royal, F ay K e lto n ; Duchess of Gloucester. G ai Sm ith ; Duchess of York. B erys M arsh; Duke of York, M a tth e w O ’S u lliv a n .

(Professional! Hay Fever by Noel Coward. Old Tote Theatre. Drama Theatre. Opera House, Sydney NSW. Opened 2 August 1978. Director. Ted C ra ig ; Designer, M ich ael O ’K ane; Costumes, V ic k i F e is c h e r.

Time to enjoy W H IT T L E F A M IL Y SING ERS________ LES CARTWRIGHT This is one of the original “ new wave” theatre restaurants of Melbourne. It began four years ago in a renovated milk bar in cosmopolitan Fitzroy. The shop seats fifty and has a revolving mirro/- ball in the front window. Inside it is painted bright red and decorated with superb old circus posters. The food is home-made and freshly cooked and there is an excellent choice for each of the courses (eg main course: Roman Beef, Roast Lamb, Hot Clucking Crepes, or Cheese Pots). As well, delicious aperitifs are served to begin, and you are given ample time to talk and simply enjoy things ( . . . . a change from the galloping pace of other theatre restaurants). The table service too is both friendly and efficient. Since its inception the Trapeze has been a training ground for top new talent and the present group, The “ W hittle Family Singers” , are not an exception. They are five actor-musicians who present a twopart show. The first part called “ Old Faces” , is a send-up of the traditional talent quest. Familiar faces include Tony Panadol Junior, Mack the Spoon, the Daring McFatals, and singing duo Dull and Bored. In the second half the group become the Whittle family on tour in outback Australia. The group have a good comic sense and rapport but I feel that a director (not performing) would articulate the comedy a little more keenly than it is at present: there is a need for them to be more co-ordinated, to save some of the energy lost through overlap of lines and action. Apart from this they show tremendous promise.

Simon Bliss. John W arn o ck ; Sorel Bliss, Jan H am ilton ; Judith Bliss. P a tric ia K e n nedy; David Bliss, D avid N e tth e im ; Sandy Tyrell. B a rry O tto; Myra Arundel. Judy Nunn; Richard Greatham. Ronald F a lk ; Jackie Coryton, S u zan n e R o ylance; Clara. Co nnie Hobbs. IProfessional I

In Schiller’s Mary Stuart, the imprison­ ed Queen of Scots comes face to face with her captor and rival, Elizabeth I! Not surprisingly the sparks fly. Historically it is false. The ladies never met. In the theatre, however, it makes for drama. Royce Ryton’s Crown Matrimonial, is about the abdication of Edward VIII, the act that (eventually) gave us Elizabeth II. Mrs Simpson, the object of the King’s attentions, is offstage ad infinitum, but referred to ad nauseam. She cannot appear, because Mr Ryton’s writin’ is impelled not by dram atic logic, but by protocol. Queen Mary wouldn’t like it. And besides it didn’t happen did it? The future Duchess of Windsor and Her Majesty never knew each other. (Though they did m eet once, at a reception for the Duchess of Kent. Queen Mary, in a scene cut in this production says “ I can remember nothing about her”). Crown M atrimonial canvasses no new facts, makes up none, takes no sides, has no view of the abdication, nor Edward, nor Queen Mary (except that they were jolly good sorts, and that they had conflicts and problems), and after a while the obse­ quious tone and deadly conversations confirm all one’s long held theories about the dullness of the royals. The tale is told from the point of vantage of the family, in Queen Mary’s private sitting room at M arlborough House, and the regal exchanges have all the resonance of dialogue balloons in a classic comic. At one point, commenting on Mrs Simpson’s divorces, Queen Mary exlcaims “ To do so once may be allowed in the most terrible of circumstances, but to break your marriage vow twice, to divorce twice, is unforgivable” . This olympian pronouncement, despite

its no doubt unimpeachable source, might fairly be said to stand some way behind Lady Bracknell’s “To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfor­ tune, to lose both looks like carelessness” . However a vague similarity suggests to me that The Queen may have seen The Importance o f being Earnest at the Old Vic at some stage, a theory which, however trivial and unsupported by official records of the time, is a lot more interesting than anything in Crown Matrimonial. Going a bit further, perhaps it was the perfor­ mance at which Lillian Baylis, grand old doyenne of the Vic told her royal visitor to “ hurry home dear you’ve got to give the King his tea” . Mr Ryton makes no mention of this either. In London, during the recent Jubilee, Crown M atrimonial was given at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, a most beauti­ ful venue with a proscenium stage. The pictures of that production show a lived-in, tasteful, relatively cluttered room. In the York Theatre, at the Seymour, on a vast open stage, no intimacy is possible and furniture is of necessity, kept to a minimum. And the acres of red carpet, discreetly placed tables and lamps, the new and shiny look of everything, makes it seem as if the family were living in an ideal homes exhibition. However, Peter Williams’ cast is devout, his direction sound, and whilst it seems to me that the play wasn’t worth doing (something you may have already guessed), nevertheless, he has achieved what he set out to do, is not eating up public money in the process, and clearly deserves a commerical success. And that brings us to the Old Tote. Here we have yet another nail in the coffin of this immortal (but nearly killed) organisation. A boring, cheerless produc­ tion in which there is more evident care in the sets (albeit misguided) and costumes (good) than anything else, and in which Noel Coward’s 1925 weekend in the country, a “ classic” comedy, perhaps his best play, lies ground in the dust, reduced to the rubble of dull routine. Judith Bliss, a retired actress, her precocious children, Simon and Sorel, and her novelist husband live at Cookham, in the English countryside. Being, on the surface at least, fiercely individualistic, and somewhat eccentric, they have each invited a partner for the weekend, for Judith, Sandy Tyrell and a young “ fan” , for Simon the vamp Myra, daughter Sorel has asked diplom at Richard, and husband David a flapper, Jackie Coryton. As far as the Bliss family is concerned all four visitors are interchangeable; likely to be the object of affection or the subject of interest, one moment, and then totally ignored. As Katharine Brisbane has pointed out, (in The Australian] the Bliss family is THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978


really an ensemble. “ Brought up in a shared imaginative world, they are incap­ able of cooperation in everyday realities but fall, as if by telepathy, into harmony when playing out their games of em otion” . Ted Craig’s production doesn’t suggest for a moment that Judith, David, and the two children share anything in common other than Michael O ’K ane’s artificial setting, and indeed artifice is what governs, not this odd family, as it should, but the superficial performances of the actors. Another big problem is that, in Hay Fever, at least, Coward’s lines are not all that funny on the surface. W hat is funny is the self absorption, and self dram atisation of the characters. It needs actors who can play off the lines, and sometimes a little away from what is being said. As Judith, Patricia Kennedy is all voice, she swoops and glides and grinds out the dialogue as if the text was an oyster bed of wit, as though articulation was all. She needs a director to tell her to take it easy, to throw things away, to relax. Then this actress might find the daffiness which makes Judith’s vacillations between enthusiasm for the reality of her situation as a countrywoman and her fantasy about a return to the stage (with the attendant acting out of her old successes) so funny. Ms Kennedy needs to discover the silliness of this ex actress who is always “ on” . However talented an actor or director is, he can’t do comedy like this without a sense of the absurd. There’s just no hum our behind this production. Connie Hobbs as a maid proves that a breezy impertinence and a funny walk are not necessarily amusing. Moreover she has no English accent. Why, in a “ m ajor” company was this performance allowed? The Bliss father and children are innocuous. Barry Otto as the dim Sandy, has some good bits but is quickly forgettable. Ronald Falk, who can be outstandingly amusing, is merely adequate as the diplomat. And though Suzanne Roylance, as the flapper, is comical, her performance owes more to her fairy floss hair and grotesque make up than anything else; than anything actually going on in the play. Judy Nunn as the slinky Myra, best reflects the uncertain tone of the proceed­ ings. In the first act her self interest is not confined to insinuating herself into the Bliss household, it’s a self interest in herself which extends to a kind of self communing. Actually, Myra is thinking, and Ms Nunn lets us hear the wheels ticking over. On the First night she managed odd readings that were very funny and rang the changes on the lines but in the later scenes this fine actress was unable to keep it up, and became uninteresting, like everyone else. The direction leaves the cast sitting (and standing) around. Little in the characters or situations is properly used, nothing builds up (the “ charades” scene in the second act is especially feeble), no hum our is even extracted from the (relatively) witty costumes. Not only is the play lacking in comic business, it’s just not funny; not only is there no esprit, it’s heavy handed; there’s no elan vital; it’s leaden, clumpy. 24


Hay Fever, like the Old Tote has a deficit of laughs (though there are a few). Why didn’t the commentators who now moan about the possible demise of the Tote editorialise a whole long while ago, (indeed almost from the beginning of it’s history), about the undistinguished stand­ ards, about the fact that while it became an “organisation” , it never, except in brief periods, was a company; that it never had a great period, never developed a house

style, never deserved to survive. Hay Fever is by no means the worst in a long line of dud “ classic” productions. At least artistic standards, whatever the financial situa­ tion, might be a relevant defence against the actions of the Australia Council. But can one seriously suggest that, bar the odd production here and there over the years, the activities of the Tote have added much to the artistic life of Sydney? I rather think not.

Stature to the pleasurable

After a sober, highly acclaimed M other Courage, Aubrey Mellor has given us an As You Like It which equally commands serious consideration. This production overall, was played in the modern ebullient style — as commonplace now as the high reverential m anner of a decade ago. It appears then, the line taken on the title is th at here Shakespeare, with sixteen plays’ experience, was claiming an ability to please one and all. It has been treated as one of his “ happy comedies” , but its place in the canon, only one play between it and Hamlet, and its sophistication suggest a deeper response is required. To me, and not alone, this is Shakes­ peare’s most acute and all-embracing exploration of sexual relationships. The

AS YOU LIK E IT __________ ROBERT PAGE A s You Like It by William Shakespeare. NIDA at Jane Street, Sydney. NSW. Opened 1st August, 1978. Director, A u b rey M ello r; Designer, A llan Leas; Music, Roma C o n w a y; Stage Manager, A n ne H e ath ; Lighting Design, Bryon Jon es. Rosalind. A n gela Punch; Celia. V iv ie n n e Q a rre tt; Orlando. A n d re w S h arp ; Jacques, R o bert A lexa n d er; Touchstone, S tu a rt C a m p b ell; Duke Senior, Duke Frederick, John C layto n ; Charles, Silvius, Bill C h arlto n ; Oliver, Corin. Ron R o dger; Phebe, J e n e e W elsh; La Beau, Audrey, K e rry W a lk e r; Adam, Amiens, William. R obert M enzies.


Angela Punch (Rosalind) and Andrew Sharp (Orlando) in As You Like It directed by Aubrey Mellor at Jane Street Theatre, 1 August to 26 August.

implied setting of course reflects on the people that move in it, and the forest is no Golden Age arcadia but a place of “winter and rough weather,” where the proud stag is gored and animals copulate for m an’s benefit; where venom’d snakes wait for the unwary and lionesses maul humans. It undercuts the Rousseauean “ return to nature” ideal before it was even voiced. If the forest is a more brutally and thus more fully conceived one than the fairy dell of M idsum m er Night s Dream it is because its symbolic purpose — as a m etaphor of the entanglements and thickets of sex­ uality — is at a stage further on than the adolescent urges of the lovers in the earlier play. Here, even on the level of “ straight” relationships, the viewpoint is both wider and more hard-bittenly objective. Alan Lees’ set, for all, as Arden, a useful, open acting space, landscaped luxuriantly with a hay coloured carpet, had the visual effect more of a trendy rumpus room than a rich and dangerous retreat with not even the coiled wires of Brook’s Dream to suggest trees. Its effect on the production was to mute the felt sense of danger — no lions would prowl on its shaggy pile! Given that, the relationships mellowed too. On the most basic level — and the exception because of Kerry W alker’s brilliant portrayal of the hardly human lump Audrey — there is Touchstone’s marriage purely to satisfy carnal needs “ or live in bawdry” . The nymph and swain, Bill Charlton as a lank, love-lorn, ocker Silvius and Jenee Walsh a pouting, disdainful Phebe, are the types, says Rosalind, “ that make the word full of ill-favored children” — not a hint of the fanciful with these two. At the centre is Rosalind, Shakespeare’s most magnificent female*— pretty, witty, wise, perceptive, yet also playful, loving and frail. Angela Punch's beautiful yet lean figure, her large eyes one moment sparkling the next doleful, her athleticism and vivacity, served the part better than I have seen in many a day. Through her, em anated the maturity and lack of delusion that not only puts Rosalind in the position of puppet — mistress in sorting out the entanglements, but rightly wins her the soundest of relationships. Her aware­ ness and role playing as Gannymede/ Rosalind, allows her talk of cuckolding the husband — in Restoration fashion — before the romantic ending has given us the Jack shall have Jill resolution. Shake­ speare hints that “ living happily ever after” might serve as a conventional full stop but he punctures it in advance as not being true to the way of the world. Explored in the play too, as a pro­ gramme note suggested though the prod­ uction less so, are aspects of male and female sexuality which remain live issues even today. Despite the vitality Vivienne G arrett brought to the part of Celia, as friend, confidante and fellow exile, the director did not want to make much of the implicit infatuation she feels for Rosalind. Isn’t her jealousy of Orlando, her self imposed exile, that she talks of them as Juno’s Swans (who drew the chariot of the god of love), something more than friendship?

The same applies to Rosalind/ Gannymede with Orlando. Again the youth’s name is that of mortal boy stolen by Jove to have an affair with him. Can Shakespeare have overlooked the signifi­ cance? Orlando is a sonneteer and we remember the playwright’s own infatu­ ation for a boy in his own sonnets. A pity Andrew Sharp — otherwise suitably youthfully dashing as Orlando — wasn’t given greater rein here. Such explorations are not in any sense sordid or risque as portrayed, on the contary they give the play its sense of fullness. And if we believe that the melancholy Jaques (play on Jakes = toilet?) has Portnoy’s complaint then Shakespeare has rung all possible changes of hum an sexual proclivities. If this aspect was underplayed then the court/forest contrast was overplayed, and again much of the problem rests with the setting. For the court multiple Venetian blinds were used to indicate spying and intrigue but which created sight line problems and cramped the area for the wrestling scene. A sound tape gave the whole the aural atmosphere of that expressionist nightmare of the city, Metropolis. On the one hand then Mellor seemed to try his hand too far and on the other not far enough. This — coupled with the exhuberant manner which can look undis­ crim inating — made the director appear now and then unable to distinguish between sound ideas and gimmicks. For instance the daring of having Robert Alexander, as Jaques, play Beethoven’s Pastoral in the forest made for one delicious moment in a stunning per­ formance, where playing Oliver M artext (Ron Rodger) as Orlando’s wicked brother in disguise (and on a bicycle!) seemed merely pointless. But like Antonioni in Zabriskie Point Mellor was keeping an ace up his sleeve. He reserved his bleaker view of the play, apart from the unsatisfactory opening scene, for his disturbing finale when a howling wind, not merry dance music, accompanied the final couplings. Over the shoulder this turning on its head of the romance comedy ending, destroying its rejuvenative powers, gave a stature to what seemed up to that point only (but eminently) pleasurable.

Generally a welltailored who-dun-it C A TC H ME IF YOU CAW ANTHONY BARCLAY Catch Me I f You Can by Robert Thomas, translated by Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert. Marian Street Theatre, Sydney. Opened 28 July 1978. Director, R o bert Levis; Designer, Tom B a nnerm an; Lighting, M ich ael N ey; Stage Manager, F ra n c e s T a y lo r.

Daniel Corban, S e rg e L a z a re ff; Inspector Levine, P e te r W h ltfo rd ; Father Kelleher. Jam es B e attie; Elizabeth Corban, H e len Hough; Sidney, Al Tho m as; Mrs Parker, Linda N e w ton; Everett Parker, Ray M eag h e r.

Catch Me I f You Can, as the title hammers home, belongs to the ‘who-dunit’ genre — it is in addition one of those all

too well made plays, spiced with comedy and farce of a richly American flavour. The ‘who-dun-it’ genre is something we’ve all indulged at one time or another: a late night’s reading, TV dinner with Columbo, even a winter’s night visit to the theatre. The bedside reading variety is an insom­ niac’s placebo while he thoughtfully chews on an apple, or fingernails; television has cornered the m arket with its inexhaustible supply of m acho/good guy cops whose singular charm is to solve any and all puzzles. But live theatre holds the most promise — a direct engagement between spectator and actor, in the flesh intrigue, a race between audience and characters to uncover an inexorable logic that makes sense of a murky surface. The point of the genre in its literary and dramatic forms is a simple enough business. One submits to the details of plot which proceed apace with a typical domestic realism while dazzling, even subtle, clues are flaunted before one’s very eyes, indeed frustratingly under one’s very nose. But ingenuity aside, most of us fall victim to the seductive charm of the plot and eagerly, if passively, await the final climatic scenes. Here all is resolved into an (often) all too ordered pattern and, in retrospect, we now see it all, goodnaturedly waiving aside those improbable details that were stretched and stuck on uncomfortably to keep us from the obvious. It follows that the test of a first rate ‘who-dun-it’ is simply that it will stand up to a second inspection. And by extension this is the advantage of the dramatic form: for even if the plot is too easily transparent we still marvel at the sleights of hand engineered by director and actors before our very eyes. This, in a good production, is by no means settling for second best. The script of Catch Me I f You Can has an improbably probable plot. Daniel Corban is gently distraught when his wife Elizabeth vanishes after three days of honeymoon bliss. Elizabeth returns under the guiding arm of homely, Irish Father Kelleher, except — it is not Elizabeth, it is an impostor, who in league with Kelleher, priest-cum-crim, will stop at nothing to get Corban’s paltry life insurance of $100,000. No one believes Corban’s claims that Elizabeth is not his real wife and things look grim indeed when his only witness, Sidney the local Deli-owner, is accidently murdered and Corban’s boss swears “ Elizabeth” is the real thing. Snooping about all the time is the not unsympathetic Inspector Levine who ain’t that stoopid and herein lies the spring to plot reversal. It’s all a trap arranged by Levine to force Corban into the open, to break him into confessing that he has murdered Elizabeth to collect her not inconsiderable fortune — a cool half-million. All good and well: except for the improbably silly final twist. The m as­ querading Elizabeth turns out to be (you couldn’t guess it) no less than Inspector Levine’s wife, but (yes, you must guess it) they are happily married to boot! A point belaboured following an otherwise neat reversal — the happy marriage is an affirmation, though exactly of what still eludes me. Maybe “ crime does not play” ? THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978


Generally this is a well tailored ‘whodun-it’. Tom Bannerm an’s impressive set. expertly constructed by M ark Gover, sets the necessary mood of domestic famil­ iarity, an aptly mute backdrop to the threads of mystery and farce on which the play so much depends. The original French script has been injected with a specifically American flavour to suit its Broadway run in the mid-sixties. Of course, a 1978 production loses something in this and I’m surprised that Robert Levis let some of the lines stay . . . who is Mr Magoo anyway? More to the point much of the comedy merges uneasily with the mystery, imposed by line rather than organically flowing from plot and sit­ uation. E ar m arked jokes such as “ W e’ve been m arried for ten years and only had

one f i ght . . . it hasn’t stopped” are stam p­ ed with American bad taste: more predictable than plot reversals. All of these things are forgivable if the acting is up to standard and, sadly, it is not. This reviewer guessed Corban’s guilt early enough (but I swear to God I didn’t guess Elizabeth was Levine’s wife!) and so my focus was on individual performances. Helen Hough and James Beattie turned in workman like acting and A1 Thomas, as always, was A1 Thomas. But the pivotal relationship of Catch Me I f You Can moves about Corban and Levine, the seemingly innocent murderer and the apparently genial but very on-the-ball cop. Serge Lazareff’s Corban was uninspired and uneasy, a low key performance that left too much weight on Peter Whitford.

Whitford, best known to theatre audiences for his portrayal of Butley, responded with an excellent performance. His treatm ent of Levine blended the raunchy charm and wit of Columbo (I mean the early Peter Falk-Columbo) with that comic edge that W alter M atheau best brings to these roles. W hitford was at ease with even tha most banal of lines and gave a restraint to Levine that was unpredictably enter­ taining. With much good theatre on in Sydney I wouldn’t place the M arian Street’s latest offering too high on my list of priorities. I understand the season is well booked and, if for no other reason than watching W hitford at work, its audiences shouldn’t be too disappointed. And ‘th at’s the end of th at’.

ly g

Peter W hitford (Levine), Helen Hough (‘Elizabeth’) andd Serge Lazareff (Corban) in M arian Street’s Catch Me I f You Can. Photo: Peter Holderness

Oddly stirring ST M A R Y ’S K ID and TH E GLASS M E N A G E R IE GREG CURRAN There’s a moment in St. M ary’s K id (Q, Penrith) th a t’s pretty good. Suddenly, the back doors of the theatre fly open and from a backstage as big as a shower recess emerge five hundred people, kicking a 26


football. Actually it’s only fourteen schoolkids, b u t the speed of it all, and the noise, and the kicking of a goal (the ball goes into the street outside) creates quite a charge. The whole manoevre chalks up some heavy scoring for this rock musical quite early in the game. The cast is different teen ages, shapes, and sizes. In real life, some have left school, others are still at it, some will have come from St M ary’s High, or the scholastic halls of M ount Druitt, Penrith et al. Certain of these bods are going to be real actors, some are not so good, others

unasham ed am ateurs, But the notable thing is th at on stage they really look like they come from the same school, the same class, and even the same football team! They act with a lack of inhibition, an ensemble charm you might say (and I will), th a t’s very winning. For director Max Iffland and his spirited team naturalism obviously has a new meaning — act natural. For those who don’t know, St Marys is a town near Penrith where the Q performs and Penrith itself is at the feet of the Blue Mountains, so it’s some way from' the big

smoke. S M K is (I think) about the deadening existence in semi-country cum small urban communities, the lack of job opportunities, that void on Friday night, nothing to do and so on. In Australia today, deadening existence and lack of opportunity are hardly confined to St Marys and if you’re going to dramatise something like this you sure as hell better have something interesting to say. To a city slicker like me, SM K largely doesn’t. But all is not doom and gloom in SM K on the contrary, far from looking down in the mouth, these kids seem to have a really good time. W hen they’re not at school we see them ogling each other at the coffee shop and elsewhere. There is no shortage of parties either. The girls get a particular charge from nude centrefolds, and they shriek and shake and tremble with repressed (and also mainly unrepressed) lust. The whole scene, indeed the whole mise en scene is enormously cheered up by the cheeky pop art designs of Anthony Babbicci, a big new talent I’d say. Babbicci has designed a milk bar th a t’s a collage of empty milk shake cups with the straws spent and dangling like — yes you’ve guessed it! These containers altogether form a big shape th at’s sym­ bolic of what this show sure has — a heart. Babbicci’s hotel bar is a phantasm agoria

of beer cans piled on high, and the home of Toby’s Mum is a Tupperware traum a. Had to tell w hat’s wrong with young Toby, the “hero” of the piece. He plays the guitar too much, and football too well, and maybe his studies get a bit overlooked, but he seems a model kid on the surface. He’s not flighty, has a steady girl friend, loves his Mum. When his mate Frank urges variety as the spice and he goes off with Cheryl for the nonce, is this the start on the downward path, the beginning of the end, the gateway to instability? Not as far as I could see. So why is Toby always said to be in trouble with the teachers? Why is he alone to be blamed (by a cursing football chorus) for the loss of the G rand Final? Well, because he had a row with Doreen (Ho Hum) If Toby is a difficult case (and we have to take this on trust since we never see any of these teacher pupil confrontations apart from a contretemps with the coach which is entirely unconvincing) we have to ask why? Is his background to blame? Can the rap be pinned on his home life? There’s no father it’s true, b ut no one seems to mind that. Mum is a nice large blond (the sumptuous Ms Doreen W arburton) who’s partial to the gents but appears to do nothing about it. If Mum brought home men (shriek!) or got drunk on the living

room carpet, life at home might be difficult, but all the lady really fancies is a trip to the RSL club (she’s also into supermarkets) True, she hasn’t been to Sydney for five years (a telling stroke) but she’s not out of touch. And the good lady takes as much interest in her boring son as everyone else does. Toby’s certainly not neglected. Indeed this lady is a fine Mum, a fun Mum, whose big num ber “ I have to be seen to be believed” is the best thing in the show. In a trum ped up sequence Toby gets thrown out of school. And then he can’t get a job in the city (Sydney) the woman he is interviewed by tells him, in an uppity tone, that it’s not policy to use people from the west — it’s so far to come th at reliable attenders are at a premium. Can he get a job in St Mary’s, she asks. No way says the lad, in St M ary’s there’s a waiting list for the dole. Yes b u t you see there’s another reason why he can’t get a job — his school record. Now can these reasons stand together? Are they connected? Does Toby epitomise lost youth in general or is he a special case? The script tries to have it both ways. S M K suffers from wooliness and generality when it should be clearer and more specific. In the end our hero becomes a pop star, and the evening forfeits any claims to dram atic credibility.

St M ary’s K id Q Theatre, Penrith



Theatre/Queensland Further reservations. Greg Apps as Toby gave, at Penrith, an unnecessarily hard nosed performance. At the time I saw it he needed to cultivate some charm real quick, some directorial adjustments were needed, and I trust attended to, by the time this show hit Sydney (It opened at the Mayfair July 21). H and mikes which certainly seemed unnecessary in the small space at Penrith managed to put the kibosh on any real choreography — the show needs dances. In a formal number sung by a rock singer the crowd are pushed back from the stage and th a t’s the only movement. Rather odd this. The lyrics do not hit the spot as often as they should. For all that St M ary’s K id is a jolly evening. It is for the most part, cons­ picuously well directed, with some charm ­ ing performances. The score is good if not really striking enough. (Save for a really smashing rock num ber “ W hat’s New in Sydney” , sung with terrific bravura by Kevin Bennett, one of the show’s co­ authors). The choric contributions at the end (a tribute to something or other — perhaps Toby’s success) go up and up and on and on and get you in the way heavenly choirs used to. So, even though the finale is fairly vague in effect, it’s oddly stirring as well. A strange place the theatre.

Di O ’Connor as Laura in The Glass Menagerie The Glass Menagerie at the Actors Company is a trium ph for both Di O ’Connor’s Laura, an unexpected (and triumphantly successful) piece of casting, and the director Rodney Delaney, whose work at Ultimo has never, in my experience, been less than good, but who has never (as far as I know) had a runaway success, Delaney has reduced the play to a platform and four white boxes, eliminated all props and other set accoutrements except for some slides, and, with the help of really superb lighting, created an amazing illusion of the interiors and exterior (a fire escape) of the Wingfield’s tenement flat. The play moves along beautifully, — what a wonderful piece it is. This is the best production of a Williams’ play I have ever seen. I think even Tennesse himself would like it. 28


Greater audience intelligibility

initiative of Peter Rainey, local talent, and the sheer professionalism, in the best sense, of the visitors, Townsville audiences ¿aw some very good theatre.

TH E H O M E C O M IN G _______ ELIZABETH PERKINS The Homecoming by Harold Pinter. Townsville Civic Theatre, Townsville, Q. July 11 to 18, 1978. Director, P e te r R ainey. Lenny, Jon E w in g; Max, Q ordon G le n w rlg h t; Sam, B rian K n eip p; Joey. P e te r Ryde; Teddy. Ron H a m ilton ; Ruth, Pat B ishop. (Professional!

This was a rounded, coherent produc­ tion of Pinter’s naturalistic play, but the sinister aspects of The Homecoming were toned down to give an essentially warm if still ambiguous interpretation. It was good theatre, even for those who fidget over the longueurs of Pinter’s pauses. Peter Rainey gave a steady direction, preferring sly fun to sinister threat. W hat was lost in dram atic bite was probably gained in greater audience intelligibility. Even so a letter to the local paper cried “ a more revolting and nauseating performance we have never seen” and decided that The Homecoming was not “ worthy of our new Civic T heatre” . Generally, however, the interpretation of the play as depicting violence and humour within family relationships work­ ed well. Jon Ewing, Gordon Glenwright and Pat Bishop co-operated with local actors Brian Kneipp, Ron Hamilton and Peter Ryde, showing the professional integrity on which all quality theatre rests. Glenwright, who replaced Ben Gabriel after the latter’s illness during rehearsal, and Ewing, played sustained, entirely credible roles, allowing plenty of energy without the manic overtones of some interpretations. Ryde’s Joey was a big baby happy enough suckling at R uth’s bosom for two hours without going any hog. This slant on Pinter left Hamilton with the problem of not really being the loser as Teddy. And he did get across the idea that Teddy knew all along what would happen when he brough Ruth home. Young local actor Brian Kneipp gave a classical character study of the gentle Sam, and some nice moments were developed in his relationships with the family. Pat Bishop’s beautifully controlled interpretation of Ruth shaped the play, making Pinter’s resolution credible, and climaxing in a tableau centred on La Pieta in a scarlet dress. The set exploited the dimensions of the Civic Theatre, and could have been brought forward for audience comfort. Pinter’s closed London room was expand­ ed to a spacious Queensland size and held some good period furniture. As Pinter, The Homecoming didn’t go the whole hog, but thanks to the work and

Interesting approach to time and memory TH E FA T H E R W E LO VED ON A BEACH BY T H E SEA RICHARD FOTHERINGHAM The Father We Loved On A Beach By The Sea by S teve S e w e ll. La Boite Theatre, Brisbane, Qld. Opened July 21 1978. Director. J e re m y R idgm an . (Amateur!

La Boit’s interesting but varied reper­ toire since Rick Billinghurst became artistic director has left it at the mercy of the daily paper critics. Since La Boite’s fare caters to theatre goers of widely differing tastes, and since they don’t know what to expect from one production to the next, audiences tend to flow in and out according to what they know of the current offering. Obviously this raises the over­ night critic to the status of a maker or breaker of shows (a critical consideration which writing for Theatre Australia seldom invokes). In this instance both the Australian and the Courier M ail damned totally Steve Sewell’s The Father We Loved . . , and it’s having a poor run. And yet putting on the work of new local writers is surely one of the most vital functions La Boite performs, and the category obviously deserves a special and sympathetic critical response. I also enjoyed the play, which helps. I’d read an early draft a year ago. The ‘memories of a proletarian upbringing’ genre was predictable enough, as were many of the life situations presented. But I remember two strong qualities: sharp writing and observation, and an interest­ ing approach to time and memory. The play selected time capsules from the past and present lives of father and son. The father’s memories focussed principally around a personal and social crisis he experienced in 1959 (unemployed, caring for a young family, and sexually impotent), a crisis which has led him to a bitterly anti-socialist position. His son’s memories ranged from his innocence at that time to his present educated and aware social radicalism. The tension between his memories of a kind and loving father and his inability to communicate with that same man as an adult was well and interestingly handled. La Boite’s production retains some of these qualities, but has deviated from this focus and offers a very different script; one which I don’t think is an improvement.

The production illustrates two particular problems of working with new writers who haven’t yet learnt to visualise their plays on stage, and whose scripts lack dramatic shape. The first problem stems from the visual setting of the production. There is no designer in the credits, and no visual image to reinforce and facilitate the play’s themes. Instead we see two specific settings — the family house (mainly in 1959) and the son’s bedroom (in future time, as I’ll explain later). This lateral separation of both space and time works exactly against the interweaving of time and memory which seemed potentially exciting in the first version. In that early script the processes by which experience and memory diverge were suggested, and in one interesting scene, father and son seemed to swap value systems, further mixing time, experience, argument, belief, and memory. In this production what both director and writer seem to think is an experiment in filmic techniques of flashforward and flashback becomes instead two plays, uneasily thrown together at occasional moments. The setting means that the son is physically isolated in one stage area for much of the play, and during rehearsals many scenes seem to have been thrown out and a whole new story written to occupy this character’s stage time. He has become not just a young radical thinker of today, but a highly principled revolutionary of tomorrow, hiding from the law after a military coup has turned Australia into a fascist state. At the end of the play he goes into exile rather than compromise and continue the struggle. This new plot seems to me left-wing paranoia of a fairly pointless kind. Having clearly shown in the father just how far most Australians are from subversive thinking of any kind, it’s difficult to believe in an Australia “in the not too distant future” where thousands of agit­ ators are brutally massacred on Bondi Beach by the army and police as a total breakdown of civil adm inistration occurs. Just as it’s too glib to compare say the Whitlam sacking with Allende’s overthrow in Chile, so too it smacks of self-indulgent romanticism to portray ocker Che Guevaras and Gramscis leading mass movements here within the time span of this play. A lot of interesting writing has been cut in the shaping of this production; a bolder approach to the problems of the original script might have rendered this unlikely new fantasy unnecessary.

The focus is on making plays C H IL D R E N ’S TH E A TR E SU RVEY DON BATCHELOR It seemed like a concerted assault. There were “ children’s” theatre people everywhere, and all urgently selling. “ Why

don’t you come and review . . . Could you possibly do a piece o n . . . ?” and I wondered whether (for once) young people’s groups were working together. So I looked into it; scratched the surface would be more accurate, because it soon became clear how much activity there was in the field in Brisbane, and how much of it was of dubious value and indifferent quality. This is, therefore, no comprehensive survey; just random reflections on work which came to my attention during recent weeks. The first thing to remark, with one notable exception, is that far from attem pted concert there is considerable isolation among the various groups. The notable exception was Ian Reece’s so called “ Theatre-in-Education GetTogether” being held 2 - 6 October as part of the Queensland Festival of the Arts. In his typically unselfconscious and unassum ­ ing way, Ian intends to bring together inter and intra-state groups to work with “ up to a thousand kids a day” in Albert Park. In this context he expects exchanges of ideas will occur naturally and informally. The concept of TIE is a wide one, and Ian is not the sort of person to go in for definitions; he just seems to think th at one hum an sharing of experience is worth a dozen conferences. Talking of adults working for kids, the Arts Theatre has just changed policy regarding their regular Saturday matinee shows. Instead of workshop kids playing to a paying audience of their peers, Jay McKee has directed an adult cast in The Plotters o f Cabbage Patch Corner, and an admirably entertaining job it is — briskly performed and brightly staged. Regret­ tably, mindless yelling seems to have been regarded as some index of success, and the play itself is one of those queerly sentimental pieces of junior ecology. It strikes me there is something very sick about the way our society adores the god of materialisim and requires periodic selfflagellation as an act of expiation. Over at Twelfth Night I had a talk to Jane Atkins, appointed this year as Director of the School of Speech and D ram a (she readily agrees the name is antediluvian and talks of the “ Youth T heatre” ). Clearly her particular interest is in theatre itself, and she made quite an impression on the town with her young people’s version of The Visit. W hat she has in mind is a place which offers young people a disciplined experience of theatre practice. W orkshops there may be and something of the club feeling, but the focus is on making plays rather than on personal or social development. At the Bee-hive there is another approach. This is an ambitious project master-minded by Jonathon Baxter and backed by a small group of interested citizens entirely without any grant money. Five professional people have been put in a garishly re-painted suburban cinema where they provide an array of activities on a seven day a week basis. There are musical activities, dancing, week-end plays with a monthly change of programme, films, a coffee-pad and eating place,

dram a workshops each afternoon, m arket stalls and more and more, all under one vast roof! M omentum for the first three months has been staggering, and publicity outstanding. The question is can any five people sustain the pace, especially when the economic hassle must be a tough one. The August school holidays will boost numbers past the break-even point and may just be what is needed to keep this superb venture alive. One venture that is off and flying is the publication by Playlab Press of M an O f Steel, a musical spoof by Simon Denver and Ian Dorricott. Pioneered by the Middle Stagers at La Boite Theatre, this piece is tailor-made for the High School musical market. The book is fast-moving action, full of broad caricatures and broad humour. There are plenty of roles and a generous helping of choruses. The score is orchestrated for an average High School band, through there is a piano version. A cassette of the music is also available. The best point of contact is through Playlab Press, PO Box 185, Ashgrove Qld 4060. When I consider all the things I have not mentioned, it’s a wonder any young person could slip through to adulthood without some sor t of theatre or dram a experience. But they seem to manage.

T heatre/T AS

Salamanca tour and frozen audiences T A S M A N IA S U R VEY KARL HUBERT H obart’s Salamanca Theatre Company, formerly known as “Theatre in E duca­ tion” , when planning its current tour of the U nited States asked itself how does one explain “Waltzing M altilda” to young Americans. Director Barbara M anning decided it was a problem which needed the combined brain power of a think tank, and between performances and rehearsals the members of the company created a new play Billy Tea. One of its characters is Dave who offers the little Americans the following explanation: “ This poor old bloke, the swaggie, was just sitting down having a bit of a rest under a shady tree. He m ust have been in a good mood like, ’cos they reckon he’s jolly in the song; anyway he’s shoved his billy on the campfire and he’s looking forward to a nice hot cup of tea, and he’s singing away about how he goes tram ping around the countryside with all he’s got in the world to call his own rolled up in his holey old blanket, when out of the corner THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978


of his eye he spots this jum buck trotting down to have a drink at the Billabong.” W hether the little Americans will understand remains to be seen. The program for the US tour was compiled by two actors of the company, Josephine Lee and David O ’Connor, and Anne Harvey, of Sydney. She wrote one of the company’s most successful produc­ tions, I ’ll be in on that. Tasm anian companies know from long experience that the Tasm anian winter with its ice and snow, can have a devastating effect on audience numbers; however, things were never as bad as this year. The Tasm anian Conservatorium of

Music had to cancel one performance of Die Fledermaus because it feared that people would be unable to reach the theatre of the College of Advanced Education on Mt Nelson. Apparently the cancellation was broadcast, but nobody bothered to put up a sign at the theatre and people turned up, waited past the hour of 8pm and were bitterly disap­ pointed. It seems, public relations is not a strong point with the Con. On the other hand, the H obart Reper­ tory Theatre Society which had a two-week season of Alec Coppell’s thriller Cadenza decided that the show must go on, although on one evening the audience

barely outnum bered the actors on the Playhouse stage. It was a good perform ­ ance on that evening and there was a bonus for those who turned up, a free cup of coffee. And Polygon Theatre, which was estab­ lished in H obart last year by Don Gay, and perform ed with a great deal of success also on T asm ania’s North-W est Coast, has gone into the theatre restaurant business. It is staging What the Dickens at Hobarts premier hostelry the Lenna Motor Inn. This means, that H obart now has four theatre restaurants, W rest Point, Explor­ er, Cedar Court at Handley’s, and Lenna, and all seem to be doing good business.


The issues are the same as today’s SPR IN G A W A K E N IN G ROGER PULVERS Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind. Canberra Youth Theatre. Opened 21 July 1978. Director, C a m illa B lunden; Designers, C olin V a s k e s s , J u lia W ood; Puppets, Ew a CJazor.

Wendla Bergman, C la ire D u ffy; Mrs Bergman, S arah B a ker; Melchior, Jam es M cD on ald ; Moritz, R o bert Rogers; Hans, B ren dan Ryan; Ernst, M ich ael B rlssen den; Lammermeier, M a tth e w L a ffe rty ; Thea, P enny C ole; Martha, B rlg id K ltc h in ; Judge Gabor, R o bert Q ulg gln; Mrs Gabor, E lis ab eth C h e rry ; Mr Stiefel, Pastor, T h o m as M cG u ire; Man in mask. R ichard K a van ag h ; Use, C a th y Lan gm an; Puppet Manipulators, Sue B u tle r, C la re B o nham , B u rg ess, Liz E id rld g e .


H e ap ,

M au reen


This is very much M unch’s Europe of the 1890’s: young passionate people caught between a tired tradition of duty and the impulses of their bodies and minds. It was not only a conflict between God-family and the pleasures of free love, free thinking, and free access to absinthe. The issues, if one may put it that way, are the same as today’s. Oppression by a hideously restrictive older generation on a younger one seeking truth about sex, abortion, homosexuality, m asturbation, and friendship. Perhaps this is why the ACT Police felt compelled to attend opening night. The play had been advertised as a piece about adolescent sexuality. This issue, then, is no less political in Australia now than it was in W edekind’s Germany. The only differ­ ence is that we lack the intense alternative of that time; and our playwrights, for the most part, avoid any political interpreta­ tion of the personal. Camilla Blunden chose a soft-spoken naturalistic tone for this piece. One advantage of this approach was that it emphasized the awful grotesqueness of the Teachers, who appeared on stage as life-size dolls with enormous caricature 30


Brendan Ryan, Michael Brissenden, Matthew Lafferty, Robert Rogers and James M cDonald in Spring Awakening. faces. In this production, it is the young people who are the sane ones, the balanced and normal people, while the education­ alists are the zanies, the mentally crippled. The singular theme, then was clear. That education is an instrum ent used to protect society from change, and to repress and subjugate free will. Given that this was the mode of the direction, Camilla Blunden might have asked for more bloated and hyperbolic acting from the actors playing the parents. The two mothers, especially, might have appeared more stern, more gross, for they were products themselves of that repres­ sive code of education. Then the natural­ ism of the younger people would have been a contrast to all of the older characters, all of whom were using the children to justify their own wicked guilt. The life-size puppets were operated

from behind, attached to the m anipulator at the feet. This is an effective puppet style, for it allows the m anipulator to duplicate so easily every movement of his own body in the puppet. The puppet’s actions can be both big and controlled. It is good especially for satire. The voice-over for these grotesque teachers was distorted in various tones of voice, coming from a tape recorder. The nearly two hours were played without an interval. This was a wise decision, and one which takes courage. In fact, it could have gone on longer for my money; some of the wonderfully poetic monologues of the play were rushed through as lines coming from a typewriter. All of these actors are virtual novices. They handled the material well and knew at every step their motivations. The perform ance of James McDonald stands out. As the protagonist, he so clearly represented the Australian young m an’s dilemma — torn between achievement in a repressive society or dropping out and disillusion. Spring Awakening is one of W edekind’s earliest plays. As with virtually all the others, it is about sex. Later on, the pieces become more and more expressionistic in their approach. The disconnected scenes, the poetry and cynical humour, the things we don’t understand overwhelming our mind and motivation. This production might have taken advantage of that development in style. A lot of the humour was lost in over-straight delivery. Lines like ‘People are good because they enjoy it, or because they’re scared stiff’. The same with the poetry. W edekind’s language flies. It is a language of expression attuned to an era of enormous parabolic mirrors over beds, Russian roulette around the table, and arty transvestism. One thing which was lacking in the production was clearly posed beginnings and endings to scenes. This weakened the visual im pact of it. Any play, in no m atter what mode, that has many short scenes

requires a strong visual frame, so that an observer carries an image from a previous scene to the next. Especially in this play, it builds the narrative like blocks. W hat is the dilemma of these young people, both then and now? For Melchior

it is two souls inside him. The moral code of the time with its sick over-emphasis on duty as opposed to free will; and the conflict between his body and his mind. But for Moritz, the boy who suicides, it is more desperate than ever, as W edekind

says, ‘like an owl fleeing through a burning wood’. To suffer or to inflict suffering? To overcome suffering may be the most beautiful thing of all, but that depends upon whether it is done to the detriment of society, or oneself.


Confirming what it purports to be showing up CHEAP AND N A STY MICHAEL MORELY Cheap and Nasty written and directed by John M cFady en. Troupe at the Red Shed. Adelaide. S.A. Opened 4 August 1978. Music. K eith G allasch . Marino/Philip Pearson. D avid T y le r; Freud/Don Pearson, A llen Lyne; Margaret Pearson, Paula C a rte r; Gordon Sanford, Ron H eunig; Carol Robinson. Robyn C allan; Diane Simpson/Helen Rudd, C h eryl P riest. (Amateur)

Why is it that the so-called “ alternative theatres” feel they have to choose anybody but a dram atist or man of the theatre as their guru of the moment? A while back it was R D Laing, all twisted plots and knotted language: for Troupe’s last prod­ uction it was a wide array of science-fiction fuglemen, now it’s the Thoughts of Couchman Dr Jacob L Moreno, the psychiatrist who developed psycho-drama. 1 may be conservative, literal or just plain naive, but when I go to the theatre, I expect to see a theatrical performance. Just as, if I go to a soccer match, I don’t expect to have to watch twenty two players, the linesmen and the referee standing round discussing the shape of the ball, the colour of the jerseys or the set of rules they might like to adopt for the occasion. “The play’s the thing” may have an oldfashioned ring to it, but it still has some validity. Cheap and Nasty lends itself to some obvious word-plays from which I shall refrain. It employs, so the programme notes assure us (and, as in the case of the recent production of Gents, the writer strives to provide a certificate of registra­ tion for a work whose theatrical creden­ tials are somewhat doubtful), spontaneity and creativity as the basis for psycho­ drama. To my perhaps uninitiated eye, there was precious little of either on display. The plot seemed to be about one Philip Pearson and his search for himself through, round and over the top of his parents, an analyst and two incidental girl­ friends. At the end, he seemed no further advanced than at the beginning, and as neither the characterisation nor the script appeared to be following any recognizable

laws of dram atic structure, it may be that he ended up behind the line he actually started from. Exploring the carpet and repeatedly defining a square with four repeated sets of four paces were clearly intended to have some ritualistic and symbolic function in this particular pilgrim’s progress. But the adage that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive doesn’t really hold for the theatre. Along the way we were treated with lengthy and obscure exchanges with the analyst (Ron Hoenig), a rugby scrum in which the hooker looked to me to be using the wrong foot, confrontations with the parents, gropings with the girls and a mimed version of a TV wrestling bout which looked like the sort of closet performance one might indulge in on a wet afternoon if one were sure no members of the family were watching. The point of the play’s sub-title — “ an alternative musical” — escaped me. Alternative to what? Annie get your gun? Hellow Dolly? A Chorus Line? At least they had a clearly defined musical idiom and the occasional tune. Here, the songs are forgettable, the music shapeless and the function of both obscure. “ I’d like to be an entertainer” sings Philip (and it’s certainly a wish that this reviewer should have like to see realised.) Better far to aim for that than for” an authentic position in this modern world of misery” And the easy obviousness of “ Life in the suburbs can slip you so slowly by” only made me want to counter with “ what about life any place else?” This sort of catchphrase aims at significance and ends up merely confirm­ ing what it purports to be showing up. Troupe seem at present to be casting around for a new image to justify their 1977 Critics’ Circle award. The company has energy and enthusiasm, but they seem to be running the very real danger of ending up as a group of players who are jacks of all trades and masters of none. Let the writer write, the actor act, the musician compose, the director direct. It may be admirable for someone to try his hand at any or all of these, but he should beware of thinking that that way lies sure success, let alone the ability to keep an audience interested. People who can do one or more of these things even adequately have always been comparatively rare. And Troupe might well observe Goethe’s maxim “ in restraint and control does the

master reveal himself” — a more intellec­ tual equivalent of “ cobbler, stick to thy last” . T h at’s a more helpful motto for a company than lines like “ W hat do you feel like doing? Just drifting. Tell me and the others about it” which cropped up with disturbing frequency during the evening. Psychodrama may, as the text assures us, represent a major turning point in the treatm ent of disturbed patients. But if this work is anything to go by, it certainly represents nothing of the kind for the theatre when all it affords an audience is a lengthy and not too encouraging viewing of a rather somnolent and repetitive group grope.

Grand, spare, radical, surprising PEER G Y N T______________ KATHARINE BRISBANE Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen. State Theatre Company of SA, Play­ house, Festival Centre, Adelaide SA. Opened August 11 1978. Director, C olin Qoorgo; Designer, H ugh C o lm an; Lighting, N igol L o v in g *.

Peer Gynt, Hussein, M lch aol S lb a rry ; Peer, Solveig’s Father, Strange passenger, N all F itz p a tr ic k ; Peer, Ingrid’s Father, Eberkops, B rian Jam as ; Troll King, Mr Cotton, Begriffenfeldt, Las D a ym an; Bridegroom’s Father, Fellah, Button Moulder, Robin B o w oring; Steward, Trumpetrestraale, Captain, Paul S o n k llla ; Aslah, Man in mourning, W a y n * J a rra tt; Mad Mein, Watch, Man in Grey, To n y P rah n; Cowgirl, M Ballon, N ick E n rig h t; Cowgirl, M lch aal F u lla r; Cowgirl, Mate, Slave, P a tric k M itc h e ll; Aase, Solveig, D aphna Q ra y; Solveig, M ic h e lle S ta y n e r; Mother, Kri, M a ry tln A llan ; Fiddler, Val L a v k o w lc z ; Ingrid, Jac q y P h illip s; Green Woman, Solveig, C h ris M ahoney; Eunuch, Bosun, C olin F rle ls ; Thief, P a te r S c h w a rz ; Receiver, Das Jam es ; Slave, Dennis M oore; Cook, P e te r F a rra g h .

The State Theatre Company of South Australia — formerly the South Australian Theatre Company — may in these stirring and controversial days fairly claim to justify single-handed the cost of govern­ ment subsidy. Its outstanding 1978 season is now climaxed by a monumental performance of Peer Gynt to m ark Ibsen’s sesquicentenary. (The reason given for a change of name is to eliminate confusion with the South Australian Trotting Club. Any association with horse-racing is perhaps not felicitous.) Colin George’s production of this four-hour epic is grand, spare, radical and packed with surprises. He has produced the play more than once before and his THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978


Theatre/W A growing familiarity both with the Nor­ wegian idiom and the vast staging problems {Peer Gynt was initially a closet drama) makes both bold in his decisions and confident in his orchestration. The boldest decision, which in retro­ spect has the simplicity of the perfect solution, is to cast three actors in the title role: Michael Siberry as the young romantic of the first act; Neil Fitzpatrick as the sybaritic capitalist of the second act; and Brian James as the lost old man of the third. There are also three Solveigs: Michelle Stayner, Christine Mahoney and D aphne Grey. The second bold decision, having made the first, is not to impose a coherent style upon the text but to dramatise its diversity. The advantage of the first decision is a tripling of the energy resources for a role beyond the stam ina of most actors; and of the second a store of surprises within a picaresque framework. At the same time Hugh Colman’s design and Nigel Levings’ lighting are spare, erupting only now and then into bursts of extravagance; allowing a continuing flow of movement through the many scenes and making strong demands upon the audiences’s imagination in the m anner of poetic drama. A further advantage of the diversity was a real sense of the parochial stuffiness, ignorance and selfishness which Grieg’s music has softened and which Ibsen was to attack more blackly in later plays. Here it is pointed up ironically in a way admirably captured by Norman Ginsbury’s informal translation. The play opens with the cast in rehearsal dress doing a warm-up, during which they lay down ground rules for the audience. For the first act the stage is almost bare and grey as we meet the impetuous young dreamer and his gullible mother Aase, watch him kidnap a bride from her wedding for a dare and meet the pure soul Solveig. As in The Wizard o f Oz, the imaginary world proves more colourful than the real, though the boundary between black and white and technicolour are not so clear. The source of this act in Norwegian folklore is made very clear: Michelle Stayner’s Solveig has a trans­ parent goodness which disdains sentimen­ tality; and D aphne Gray’s Aase, which must be one of the very finest perform ­ ances she has ever given, is a wonderfully real, vulnerable peasant whose comedy derives from her being real, not from her being a peasant. Her famous death-bed scene which ends Act One, in which Peer drives her in a sleigh to the gates of Heaven, commands belief. But economy of the staging only dramatises the grotesque sexual fantasies represented by the Troll kingdom as the inhabitants burst on stage like a Heironymus Bosch portrait of Hell. The images of flesh and guilt combine until they form a philosophy of selfishness which carries Peer through to the end of the play. Following Act One the curtain rise on Act Two could not be more unexpected. Here are all that 19th century stage mechanics can offer: a proscenium arch encrusted with cherubim; a beach on (Continued on page 40) _____ 32


Double nostalgia trip T H E G H O ST TR A IN _______ COLLIN O’BRIEN The Ghost Train by Arnold Ridley. National Theatre, Play­ house, Perth, WA. Opened 4 August 1978. Director, E dgar M a tc a lfa ; Designer, Sua R usaall; Lighting, D u ncan O rd; Stage Manager, C h ris tin a R a n d all. Saul Hodgkin, L as lla W rig h t; Richard Winthrop. M artin Jon as; Elsie Winthrop, R o sam ary B a rr; Charles Murdock, A lan F la tc h a r; Peggy Murdock. M a rrin C a n n in g ; Miss Bourne, M a rg a ra t Fo rd ; Teddie Deakin, R o bert Van M a c k e le n b e rg ; Julia Price. Laone M a rtin -S m ith ; Herbert Price, A n dy K ing; John Sterling, Ivan K ing; Jackson, R o bert F a g g e tte r; Smith, O auoge Tso usls.

The Ghost Train is a mystery thriller written between the wars: in 1925 to be precise, the year Britain went off the Gold Standard and was building itself up with Malcolm Fraser style prekeynesian economic policies to the General Strike of 1926. An appropriate time for escapist drama. Realism /naturalism was not merely the dominant dram atic form, it was virtually the only acceptable one; and of course the mystery thriller with its fundamentally realistic mode and its underlying n atural­ istic philosophy (ie every phenomenon has a rational explanation, therefore whodunit is a question which must have an answer) is a clear setup for such a dram atic formula. As dram a it is nevertheless a spinoff from the novel, indeed many of the plays were rewrites of novels, notably those of A gatha Christie. This was an age when she, not Ellery, was Queen, when Hercule Poirot and Lord Peter Whimsey stalked the land. As with most literary genres it is interesting to look back just to note how unreal, artificial, downright arbitrary are the unbreakable rules of any artistic form. In the English whodunit, for instance, sex never reared its ugly head (so to speak). Well, it was a reason for killing somebody, but not for jum ping into bed with them. T hat m ust mean something, but I shudder to contemplate what. The more vulgar Americans did go in for themes such as Blondes D o n ’t Kill, and eventually went on to more explicit sex, finally to the shafting of Shaft. But in the English thrillers everyone was so dam n polite and knew their place, there was no room for even the mildest radicalism. The fantasies were built on an accepted class structure from the Hall to the cottage via the vicarage. Astutely, someone once described it all as Snobbery with Violence. But I digress. The Ghost Train was a nostalgia trip in another sense as well. All we longstanding Stagedoor Johnnies, critics and other ticks and parasites on the body theatrical were remembering back to director Edgar M etcalfe’s first production in the Play­ house in 1963. That, too, was a mystery thriller, The Cat and the Canary, with which Edgar showed us that he not only commanded the nuts and bolts of directing but had a flair for style as well. I can still recall the Jazz Age Boop-a-Doop poses the

girls froze into in moments of terror, surprise or whathaveyou; but even more that marvellous moment when Ron G raham threw wide a wardrobe door and the pokerstiff corpse of Peter Collingwood began its slow descent to flat on its face to Ron’s cry of “ Good Lord! Benson!” or words to th at effect. Precisely located between the Collingwood shoulderblades was a knife with a handle of oriental design. Ah, we don’t see enough of that sort of thing nowadays, do we Jeremy? No, now its all get-your-gear-off and whatabout-the-workers. W ith The Ghost Train Edgar proved that he hasn’t lost his touch. The play is set on a remote, deserted Cornish railway station, and we were treated at curtain-up to a spooky red light through the windows and a shaky-voiced version of “ Rock of Ages” . Next a highly realistic train into the station, conveyed by a series of carriagewindow lights passing and slowly stopping outside the windows, a device which rightly drew applause. You don’t get th at sort of effect at the RSC, mate. It would break all the rules to tell you who done it, although I can say it wasn’t the butler, as there wasn’t one. Suffice it to say th at the plot is built around six passengers from that train stranded on the station at the grudging mercies of an aged stationm aster, a nicely gummy Mumerset performance by Leslie W right. Enter later two supposedly respectable upperclass but rather sinister figures (Ivan and Andy King) and a hysterical lady, given appro­ priate staring eyes and tense musculature by Leonie M artin-Smith. Oh, I forgot to tell you who the six stranded characters are — and to tell that is to tell all. First a cold, Cowardy sophisticate (Rosemary Barr) and her rather austere husband (M artin Jones), their m arriage on the rocks but stiff upper lip (if nothing else) all round; next a newlywed couple (Merrin Canning and Alan Fletcher) he, in the English theatrical tradition, the more coy with a tendency to get his adam ’s apple mixed up with his tie, she a M odern Miss who just might fla u n t herself; a sillyass Englishman, Bertie Wooster on holiday, all monocle and Oxford bags (Robert Van Mackelenberg); and finally an ageing spinster with a parrot (M argaret Ford). Need I say more? As upperclass twit of the year M r Van M ackelenberg could easily have stolen the show, b u t sharp-eyed direction and selfdiscipline cut off the possibility, but it was a finely tuned performance. M argaret Ford had a marvellous instant-drunk lazzi, and otherwise all forces combined mag­ nificently together. The play is not terribly well written, even for the genre, and a straight send-up would have become quickly boring; but Edgar and his cast managed that nice balance between parody and playing it for real which kept us both am used and on the edge of our seats. All in all, an enjoyable evening in the theatre.

PANDORAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S CROSS By Dorothy Hewett

Photo by Branco Gaica




INTRODUCTION Jim Sharman on Pandora’s Cross If one were to ask international visitors to list their points of interest in the city of Sydney their response would include the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, Bondi Beach and Kings Cross. Now while Pigalle, Soho, Times Square and their like have often been celebrated on stage and screen, Sydney’s notorious square mile at the top of William Street, though often celebrated after midnight in drunken bars, had not provided the stimulus for a major dramatic work. For better or worse Dorothy Hewett’s new musical play has altered this. Dorothy has created a mythical Kings Cross, with its bohemian past — post Vietnam Americanisation — tawdry facades — blatant corruption — lively vulgarity, that reflects the life of the city that would prefer to deny its existence.

ACT 1 Pandora’s Cross was first performed at the Paris Theatre, Sydney on June 29th 1978. The Director was Jim Sharman and the Designer Brian Thomson. The music was written by Ralph Tyrrell. The original cast were: The Goose Pandora Mac Greene Frangipanni Waterfall Sergeant Tinkerbell Primavera Rudi Ethel Malley Ern Malley

A r th u r D ig n a m J e n n ife r C la ire John G aden J u lie M c G re g o r J o h n P a ra m o r G e ra ld in e T u r n e r S te v e J S p e a rs R o b yn N e v in N e il R e d fe rn

The set is divided into upstairs and downstairs sections, with an elevated platform for the G o o s e ’s honky-tonk piano. The backdrop is a panoramic, moveable King's Cross skyline that lights up at night. Upstairs: Pan’s loft .. cushions, a sword, two large candlesticks, drapes, masks, strange paintings... E th e l M a lle y ’s room containing a straight backed kitchen chair and an Early Kooka gas stove... T h e G o o s e ’s piano and stool on a platform. Downstairs: There is a staircase which can convert to an escalator. This leads into the Village ... a streetlight far left, a fountain playing, a sycamore tree backstage left of centre, and P r im ’s bar, neon lit with bar and stools. Centre is M a c ’s room, a cheap table, chairs, battered typewriter, reading lamp and booze.

CHARACTERS P a n d o ra (P a n ) King's Cross witch and artist, black-haired sensual, in her forties. M ac G re e n e ex-poet from Chatswood, classical scholar, alcoholic bum, in his late thirties. E rn M a lle y Romantic poet, forever twenty five. E th e l M a lle y Ern’s sister, withdrawn eccentric, in her late thirties. F ra n g ip a n n i W a te r fa ll (F r a n ) Cross hustler, a teenager from Blacktown on mandies. P r im lv e ra (P rim ) Ex-stripper and club proprietor, a well proportioned blonde in her late thirties. 34


Traditionally artists have always been associated with The Cross’. Old-style bohemian artists, striptease artists, con-artists, drag-artists, all sorts of artists. Dorothy would have it that most of those artists have been disillusioned and, in some sense, destroyed but their spirit lives on through The Cross’. In consequence she has crafted a poem for the stage that denies most conventions of formal storytelling and gathers the evidence of scattered poems (McAuley, Slessor, et al), bantering journalese (headlines and street-kid interviews), second-hand mythology (Norton, Goossens, Neilson, etc.), wall graffiti, political sloganeering, Shakespearean offcuts and worse, then tossed this into a salad of regret and loss served to the audience with the authority and subtlety of a short order cook (if Dorothy will forgive the culinary metaphor). Most understandably audiences and critics (who prefer their salads with the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval) have baulked a little at this meal of sadness and celebration. So we move into the treacherous area of people’s expectations. How do you like your ‘Cross’? Up front or laid back? It would seem

from our experience that the expectation is definitely UP FRONT. The reality, as any ‘bastard from the bush’, emerging thirty bucks lighter from a Darlinghurst Road door way could tell us, is LAID BACK. Ralph Tyrrell's haunting score and Dorothy's sad soliloquies do not add up to an extrovert musical brimming with pizzaz and neon, no matter how much humour is used in the leavening. So we are left with a strange evening in the theatre. Our walk along Darlinghurst Road and down Macleay Street has diminished those tremulous expectations created step by step walking up the big hill of William Street. Nasty incidents in side-streets, too much bad language, not quite what we expected, a brawl we might have been involved in, gross jokes, tawdry glitter, seemingly a non event, and yet... and yet, we still seem to be talking, arguing about it, dismissing it, remembering it. Whether, as its apologists would have it, ‘a sonata for a city’ has been created or, as its critics would berate, a mere sentimental litany of forgotten names and events. Either way it exists and, like two other remarkable Sydney institutions Dorothy Hewett and Darlinghurst Road, it cannot be denied.

The G oo se Ancient ex-Philharmonic conductor, jazz pianist, porn pedlar, Grand Master of the coven. R u di The cross cowboy working for Mr Big. S e r g e a n t T in k e r b e ll (T in k ) Still handsome policeman and drag queen.

procurers with the mask of Cain, a guttersnipe, a famous name, and lolly-legs out in the rain, yet somehow things are not the same... A ll: Pandora’s Cross T h e G o o s e : Swapping mandies in the bars, the kids are shooting for the stars The moon rides high, the moon rides pale, the paddy waggon starts to wail, the drug squad cops are on their tail, they cross their legs and go to jail... A ll: Pandora’s Cross. T h e G o o s e : The fountain and the linden tree, molls and rape and sodomy, where all the lovers come across, we lay and played at pitch and toss maybe it was ju st... fairy floss but I get an awful sense of loss. A ll: Pandora’s Cross. Spot moves to Pandora who climbs to her loft, sits cross legged on her dirty cushions, the crystal ball spinning, candles guttering either side, the unsheathed sword at her feet, weird paintings as her backdrop. G o o s e : Sitting there above the town, Pandora wears her crooked crown She will intuit all your dreams, the world will not be what it seems, strolling where the streetlight beams, the whores will say that love redeems. A ll: Pandora’s Cross. Like sleepwalkers the characters move to their appointed places; Mac to his central table down­ stairs, lowers his head in his arms, Prim behind the bar, Fran under the streetlight, Rudi and Tink menacingly either side o f the fountain. Far left upstairs the plain wooden kitchen chair with a copy o f Ern Malley’s poems on it, waits for Ethel Malley. The Goose stays at his piano like a shadow. Pan holds up her crystal ball. P an : (crooning) Light the candles, cast the circle. Mac, head still in arms. M a c : Bullshit Pan! G o o s e : Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Exodus 22, 18. Mac raises his head. M ac : Witches are... bunk! P an : (gloomily) Mac’s right. I couldn’t even blight a crop, unless it was a stray bit of grass on a windersill. M ac : You could try a little quiet murder. P an : (bitterly) You’d like that wouldn’t you? Save you the trouble.

The scene opens on the night skyline o f the Cross. High in the flies Sydney is falling, the developers are in and the sound o f the demolishers is deafening. Suspended in blackness like an actor in the Prague Black Theatre the ancient G o o se in verdigris coat-tails sits at his honky-tonk piano. As he sings the panorama o f the Cross unrolls behind him, faster and faster, so that by an optical illusion he appears to be a whirling maestro o f the skysigns. Up and down the moving staircase the characters enter and move like ghosts, like waxwork figures: M a c G re e n e dressed in a travesty o f what must once have been an “intellectual's costume”, ancient, raggy tweed sport's coat with leather patched elbows, torn cords, no shirt, bare dirty feet, a tattered cravat knotted around his neck like a hangman’s noose. He holds his eternal bottle in his hands: P a n d o ra , her black cloudy hair stuffed under a black beret, wears a colourless plastic raincoat and black sandshoes; F ra n g ip a n n i W a te r fa ll, the baby-faced redhead, is in a skin tight skirt, split to the thigh, a nose-dive cleavage, spike heels, tote bag; Rudi, the tattooed hood with the Nureyev cheekbones, dressed as a Cross cowboy with stetson, chaps, spurs & body-fitted shirt: S e r g e a n t T in k e r b e ll in a police uniform, strikingly handsome, baton prominent in back trouser pocket; P rim lv e ra . a tough-faced, extraordinarily shapely bottle-blonde, in wide­ legged, tailored satin pyjamas. They move like phantasmagoria, figures held in an eternal dream. The time is Good Friday, 1978. T h e G o o se plays and sings "Pandora’s Cross". G oose: Pandora’s Cross is the place to be an amalgam of truth and fantasy The spunky boys in the street will grab a tender cut of meat soliciting in Kellett Street they reckon that the picking’s sweet. A ll: Pandora’s Cross. T h e G oo se: (continues) The call-girls on the telephone, the lumpy breasts of silicone,

M ac : (quoting Lorca) Agony, agony, dream, torment and agony, this is the world my friends, agony, agony. (He drops his head again) The sound o f the wreckers grows louder. G oose: The wreckers are getting closer. Sydney’s falling Mac. P an : We need Ern Malley, Ern would know what to do. M ac: (bitterly) Ah yes, Ern lead us into the promised, barren land. G oo se: From the deserts the prophets come. M ac : At fifteen I was a classicist with a little Latin and less Greek. G oo se: (smiling) And I was writing my first cantata. P an : Norman Lindsay always said / was just a grubby little girl with no sense of discipline. (She giggles) M ac : I migrated across the Bridge from Chatswood looking for Bohemia and there you were down on your knees, drawing a black panther fucking you in McLeay Street. P an : That was my pitch. I made 19/1 Id in a good week. I usta wash in the wimmens’ lav at Central... all that art nouveau glass. I always loved Beardsley. M ac : You took me in. My parents came across the Bridge foaming, and found me sleeping in itchy rags beside you. They accused you of unlawful carnal knowledge. P a n : And you couldn’t even get it up. They laugh together. M a c : 1 was always drunk or high on speed. I wasn’t responsible. P a n : That’s what your mother said. M a c : She tried to have me committed. I don’t even know where she’s buried. P a n : And all you wanted was a freer more excitin’ self, (pause) So you made him up. M ac : I didn’t make you up Pan. P a n : No, I made myself up, an old Cross ratbag. The self never changes. M a c : 1sometimes think you made us up as well. P an : 1 took yous up, that’s all... the child genius with the bad poems and the second'and Remington portable, and the ol’ porn peddlar ticklin’ the ivories in Prim's place. Well, me favourites are still Brahms, solitude and havin’ me back scratched. G oo se: And here we are gathered. The table rappers are out, the ghosts of the ouija board, the harpies licking their chops, all trooping in, out of vacancy. As The Goose speaks the fountain starts to play, the streetlight goes on, Prim's Bar lights up in neons, Mac’s tablelamp switches on, Frangipanni Waterfall walks up and down restlessly swinging her tote bag, and chewing gum. Rudi watches from the fountain, and Tinkerbell twirls his baton like a drum majorette. Prim lays out glasses on the bar counter. Frangipanni propositions Rudi. Tink moves forward for an arrest, Rudi motions him roughly back, Tink complies sulkily. Rudi and Fran silently haggle over their transaction. Pan gazes down fondly on them all. P a n : All my familiars. You invented a familiar for me once Mac; Ern Malley. F ra n : Who the fuck’s Ern Malley? P a n : (slyly) Ask Mac Greene. He made him up. M a c : I was pissed and I was bored. It was all just... a phan... phantasmagoria. G o o s a : When you’re ready Mac. The Goose plays a soft syncopation under Mac’s story. It is a routine they have obviously done many times before. Mac, driven to it, begins to narrate. M a c : So I gave birth to Ern Malley and his fictitious sister, Ethel. Mac gestures to the upper level. Quietly Ethel Malley enters, sits primly in the empty chair,

pulls down her skirt, opens Ern’s book o f poems. She is dark, thirtyish, intense, dressed drably in skirt, jumper and flat shoes. She looks poverty stricken. Pan sits on her cushion again, listening. P a n : (softly) Ethel’s back. Mac strides about the stage, conducting the whole experiment again, suborned by it, in spite o f himself. M a c : I produced the whole of Ern Malley’s tragic life work in one afternoon with the aid of the Concise Oxford Dictionary, a Collected Shakespeare, a Rhyming Dictionary and a bottle of cheap scotch. The writings of Ern Malley are utterly devoid of literary merit. Ethel rises with dignity, and comes forward, carrying the book as if it is holy writ. She speaks in a stilted, ill-educated voice. E th e l: You arst me to tell yous somethin’ of Ern Malley’s life. Ern had a job as a mechanic at Taverner’s Hill. When his condition worsened he made a bit on the side repairin' watches. He was always so good wiv his hands. He dosed ’isself with iodine but, you see, he was never strong. The crisis come sudden. He was that irritable. He passed away wiv Graves’ disease at only twenty five. As he wished he was cremated at Rookwood. M a c : (pounds table) Ern Malley never existed. Ern Malley... E th e l: I am not a literary person meself. I don’t understand what Ern wrote, but I loved him, and it would be a kindness if you’d let me know if you think there’s anythin’ there. She holds out Ern’s poems dumbly. M a c : Fucking charlatan! E th e l: The weeks before Ern died was terrible. If only he’d taken better care, it needn't have been fatal. Ethel’s voice breaks. She sits down stiffly in her chair. Mac goes back to the table, holds onto it for support. The piano backing cuts out. Mac looks up at Pan. M a c : Our stage was always this house, the furniture watching, the cushions dancing like demons... P an : You invented Ern, and set him up to love me, in your place. Mac groans and sits with his head in his hands. P an : You can't easily reverse the spin of the soul. There’s the devil to pay...always. F ra n : Got any mandies Pan? P an : Don’t use mandies. In the old days we was all on speed. Fran hits Rudi playfully with her shoulder bag. F ra n : Crack a fat or your money back. Rudi and Fran argue business again in mime. Tinkerbell looks savage, twirls his baton with itchy fingers. The stage darkens, spot on Pandora. She moves to the crystal ball, stands staring into it. P an : When I was a kid I used the patterns in the fire, or the lamp swingin’ in the wind from the centre of the pressed iron ceilin’, even the froth on me Dadda’s beer. M a c : (wearily) Cut it out Pan. P rim : It just don’t wash anymore Pan. P a n : I’m bored too Mac. I wanta live. M a c : (standing) Don’t wake it up. Let it all...die. G o o s a : (softly) At the sign of the cloven hoof, our hunting ground is always...home. P a n : I want to dance with the devil. I miss him. M a c : The devil or Ern? G o o s e : She could never tell the difference. P a n : (in priestess position) All ye assembled in my sight, I will raise the power, I will draw down the moon. Mac drops to the table with a groan. F ra n : (admiring) She's orf. T in k : But I think its divine. I love a good drag show. The Goose rises, bows and hands Pan the

ceremonial sword. He stands behind her. Pan takes the sword and draws a five pointed star in the sky above the King’s Cross skyline. P an : Mine the scourge and mine the kiss, the five point star of love and bliss, here I charge you in this sign...Dread Lord of Shadows, God of Life and Death, open wide the gates through which all must pass. Let those who have gone before return this night to make merry with us. M a c : (standing) No Pan! You’ve always believed you could control time. But time exists. Its a reality. Prim brings candles from behind the bar, lights them and hands one to Mac, one to Fran, one to Tinkerbell and one to the reluctant Rudi, then she too joins the circle. They form the circle, moving anti-clockwise, hand in hand. Ethel remains motionless, trance-like in her chair. They circle silently, ceremoniously, around the stage, then up and down the moving staircase. P an : All things are here Mac. They’ve already happened and we’re them out. E th e l: (sings as if possessed, unaccompanied) O do not tell the priest of our art for he would call it sin, but we will be in the woods all night A-conjurin’ summer in. We bring you good news by word of mouth For women, cattle, corn, For the sun is cornin’ up from the south, With oak and ash and thorn. The grave ceremonial circular dance continues as she sings. P a n : (chanting) The circle is as large as the room allows. G oo se: (begins and they all chant except Pan) Listen to the words of the great Mother who was of old — also called Artemis, Astarte, Aphrodite, Isis Virgin, Bride... the spear to the cauldron, the lance to the grail, spirit to flesh, man to woman, sun to earth, hold up the world. The Goose hands Pan a pack o f tarot cards. She takes them with a kind o f delight. P a n : Twenty one cards and o look, here’s the fool, here’s the young man unafraid on the edge of a precipice, a dog at his heels. He looks towards the sky. He is the holy innocent, the free rangin’ spirit. He is numbered o, and he enters the world to experience it. As Pan fans out the cards she drops them and they scatter on the stage. She kneels, holding out her hands uselessly. She rises, becomes again the priestess. The circle stands motionless. Pan gives a sharp intake o f breath. P a n : (chanting)The power raised here is neither good nor evil, moral or immoral, (pause) The circle is complete. I have left a gate for him in the North East quarter. M a c : He’s not coming. P an : (chanting) O thou that standeth on the threshold between the pleasant world of men and the terrible domain of the dead, have you the courage to make an entry. It is as if they are all waitingfor the reply, and in the following dialogue Pan plays two roles, the priestess and her own ordinary self. She is like a medium using two utterly dissimilar voices. P a n : (Voice I whispers)Go back Ern, don’t be a bloody fool, go back. M a c : Go back. P a n : (Voice 2 chanting) This path is beyond life and death. If you take but one step you must arrive, inevitably, at the end. (Voice 1 whispers) Bugger off, there’s a good kid, back to limbo. We’re all too old for you anyway. M ac : Go back Ern. (Voice 2 chanting) For I say it is better to risk the blade and perish than to make the attempt with fear in your heart. (Voice I) Oh! Christ, you was always such a pushy little bastard. (Voice 2 chanting) Say after me, I have two perfect words, trust and love. THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978


grown old and scraggy. Don't look at me at all. M a c : (standing) He never loved you Pan. 1 loved you, but he didn’t give a stuff about you, ever. E rn : (smiling wryly) Goodnight Mac. Mac turns away, drinks from his bottle again, his back turned to Ern, Ethel, the Goose and Pan. Ern runs lightly down the stairs. E rn : There’s a new face in the old Village. He takes Fran in his arms. She is obviously flattered. F ra n : Like a mandy? She rummages in her tote bag. gives Ern a mandrax. He whispers in her ear. She giggles. Malley’s Back in Town Rudi scowls. P rim : Ern hasn’t changed. A ll: Malley's back, Malley’s back in town Prim serves Rudi a drink. (repeat) G o o s e : But it’s a different world Ern. You E rn : I’m Malley, Ern Malley from Taverner’s won’t fit in, no more than any of us. Time Hill, doesn’t stand still, not for anyone. Where’s the Out on a limb but hangin’ in still, old Cross now? Gone, vamoosed. Full of get rich They’ll take me and tame me and tell me I’m quick flesh peddlers. All up front, no style. home, Prim won’t perform anymore, wouldn’t bother, But I’m the wildcat that goes walkin’ alone, wouldn’t demean herself. She’s into politics. And Hangin’ in there for the kill. Pan, Oh! she sits up there, twirling her crystal ball, but it’s mostly for show. Gets the tourists Chorus: For I’ve come back to tell you the deserts will in. I’ve got a few porn postcards. Heart’s not in it, and Mac’s into the bottle. It’s hard times Ern. bloom. The Goose holds up his hand. The jackhammers And the light will still burn in one small attic grow louder. room The words start to spin and the whirlwind begin G oo se: The high rise is hemming us in. For Malley’s back in the town. E rn : Sounds like a fuckin' revivalist meeting. P a n : But we can change it all, get the ol' times Malley’s back in the town. back. We started droppin’ out in the fifties when Malley’s back in the town. O they’ll take me and tame me and tether me all them other bastards dropped in. And we stayed out. down, I’ll die in the fiery dew, M ac : You mean we’re in danger of becoming But 1just wanta tell you before we’re all through fashionable. Malley’s back in the town He takes a long drink. Chorus repeat several times P rim : (wryly) I wouldn't worry too much Mac. E rn : I come down to earth and it’s all just a Pan begins to weave a dream hypothesis. breeze, Pan : 1 took twenty four meth caps in four The city lights and the back streets are callin’ me hours. Wow! all the city sounds was like a home, symphony. We was jailed, banned, beaten up, I’m lookin' for a sign that says I'll make it slept in stormwater drains, lived in Wynyard, through everything’s cut to the bone. Museum and St James, dived naked in the Archibald Fountain, jumped the rattler, went on And everything’s difficult, everything's new Everything’s hazy or far. the track. Out on a cloud or lost on a star, M ac : Nobody’s into hardship anymore Pan. Don’t think I can make it alone. They’ve all got flats in Elizabeth Bay and drive Repeat chorus. Alphas. E rn : So lady, my lady who's wet for my love, Pan : You’re just a cynic that’s all. Ern was For eighteen long years or more never cynical. Ern’s like me. He’s a believer. I’ve shown you where the lillies grow E rn : So what’s wrong with Elizabeth Bay and On the Eumerella shore, an Alpha? Shown you how the waters flow E th e l: Don’t sell your soul Ernie. Mountains deep in winter snow, E rn : Just you watch me Ettie baby. The mountains of hell are high my love P an : (defensively) Ern and I was idealists, but Where you and I must go. we always loved style. We’ll sail a league, another league, M ac : When I was twelve I wrote, “the sane and rational man is touched with aimless dread”. I A league but barely three, But when you spy my cloven hoof must have intuited something. Sweet lady let it be, E rn : You still a witch Pan? Dig a hole for my dark soul P an : Still got me cats, Mephitabel, Greymalkin Tell them bury me. and Titty. (Pan kneels on stage, calling her cats) Repeat Chorus Malley’s back in town. Here, puss, puss, puss. E rn : But I'm the wild cat that goes walking E rn : Prove it. alone, hanging in their for the kill. P a n : I called you up didn’t I? The Five Pointed Starfades out o f the sky. E rn : (disappointed)lhen it wasn’t Mac...? M ac : (grimly) Ern’s back. M a c : Christ! I’d rather call up a rattlesnake. E th e l: (staringfront)Jhal you Ern love? You died Ern. I killed you off with Graves Ern moves behind Ethel’s chair, placing both Disease, you were in all the papers. Ethel buried you at Rookwood. Don’t you remember Ethel? hands over her eyes. E rn : Guess who? Did you wait up for me Ettie? E th e l: (sobbing) But I didn't even exist. E th e l: I always wait up. I kept your dinner hot E rn : They printed my poems. They banned me on the gas ring. It's been a long time. baby. Ern massages Ethel’s neck and shoulders M a c : Oh, sure Ern, you were an overnight tenderly. She relaxes, smiling blissfully. sensation. You founded the Ern Malley Journal. E rn : I think it’s been ... eighteen years. You even made Poetry Chicago — once. He turns and stares at Pandora. She turns her E rn : (grinning) I was the late, lamented national head away. poet of Oz. P an : Don’t look at me like that. I know I've E th e l: (standing) He was like Christ, walkin'

Long pause. M a c : (screaming) Its a lie, it’s a bloody lie. Pan sinks down sobbing. There is a long pause, and in the silence the sound o f light running footsteps. E m ’s voice echoes over the rooftops coming closer and closer as he sings. When Ern Malley enters singing on the upper stage he is dark, slender, saturnine, dressed in leatherjacket and ragged jeans. He stands spotlighted like a young hero, full o f charm, lightness and cruelty, the focus o f all their eyes except Ethel’s. She remains staring out front. Once Pan puts out her hand to him but he ignores it.



over them silver mullet shoals. He stood there like John the Baptist wiv his bloody head under his arm, and you was all mesmerized to hear him. M ac : (groaning) Why wont you let the Malleys rest in peace? Listen, for a perverse joke I created you both. 1made you up. E rn : (softly) But we make everybody up. Mac moves centre, gesticulating wildly, drinking from his bottle, the liquid dribbling down his chin. He is hysterical. M ac : If a man of sensibility in a mood of despair and hatred, or even from a perverted sense of humour, sets out to fake works of the imagination he can end by deceiving himself. Just so, the faker of Ern Malley. Mac makes a sweeping gesture, falls centre. Ern helps him ironically to his feet. Mac smashes bottle on table edge, circles Ern with it. Ern watches warily, as Mac stalks him. M ac : (babbling) Soul of magic, master of death, do you know me? Take me dark and shining one, prowl in my spirit, live in me. Read and know the fish, the sphinx, the serpent, the winged globe, life, order, chaos, death. Mac raises the jagged bottle over his head and tries to bring it down on Ern. Tinkerbell and Rudi leap in and strap Mac to his chair with a straightjacket. Mac continues struggling and babbling. T in k : That’s alright matey. They been keepin' a committee of welcome for you out at the Reception House. R u d i: So its 'ome sweet 'ome Mac. M ac : to Pan) Oh my lady. Queen of Night and Sympathy, we walked the streets like angels on our good days. P an : (to Ern) Then I met a boy in grey clothes with a cloven hoof. M ac : (struggling) We descended from attics, we roamed with our company of players... P a n : He told me his name was Ern Malley and I sold me soul, in exchange for some great riches. M ac : Ectoplasm issued from our mouths, men bowed, women kissed us... P an : And I said, there now, it’s only Ern Malley from Taverner's Hill, but there goes the devil himself in the likeness of a man. Ethel rises with a piercing scream. E th e l: No, Ernie was a good boy. When mother died I promised her I’d look after him. I always give him a nice, cut, Oslo lunch. Mac falls o ff the chair, shuffles towards the stairway on his knees. M a c : He's going to do it again. Terrorise us all and break your heart Pandora. He’ll never leave us in peace. Ern pushes Mac over gently with hisfoot. E rn : Peace is a dangerous commodity. E th e l: (in trance) Would it be strange to meet the figure that strode hell swingin' his head by the hair in Taylor’s Square? E rn : Belt up Ett. Ethel sinks down again. Mac begins to scream and rockfrom side to side. M ac : Pandora! Pandora! Pandora! Rudi hits him across the mouth. Tink drags him into a corner and dumps him there. Mac curls up in a foetal crouch, whimpering. Ern moves to the foot o f the staris, motioning the Goose to play. E rn : (softly) Pandora. Pandora puts out a hand to him, moves to the top o f the stairs. He puts one foot on the bottom stair and sings to her. E rn : Spin the web and speak the words Pandora, That bring me back through time and space to you. Time stands still, the crystal ball is turning, the candle’s burning, 1taste your tears,

I see your face Across the lonely years 1 am returning through time and space to you.

Ern comes centre and turns back to Pan spotlighted on top o f the stairs. E rn : O will 1 find you still above that little street

where once I loved you the beat of countless feet, the falling of the rain, the blur of candlelight, will everything stand still for us Pandora, will you be there for me again. A shadow crossed the moon tonight Pandora, in ruined streets the whores are passing by, and 1 know that nevermore will I knock upon your door. And follow up the steps to Paradise, follow all the promise of your eyes.

Pan moves slowly downstairs to Ern. E rn : Spin the web and speak the works Pandora that bring me back through time and space to you, time stands still, the crystal ball is turning, the candle’s burning. 1 taste your tears, I see your face across the lonely years 1 am returning through time and space to you.

As the song ends Pan is in Ern's arms. He holds her awayfrom him. She is smiling. M ac : (rational) l wrote that trashy song too. P an : (to Ern) Do you remember how we sat in the Terrace Bar at the Sheridan at two o'clock in the morning? It was just like a 1940's Betty Grable musical, crescent moon, rain in the air, couples dancin' cheek to cheek in the half dark . . . Rubber plants curlin' yeller with smog, wet plastic chairs tipped up against the tables. E rn : The big quiet fences in their felt hats and double-breasted suits waitin' for business in the corners . . . Pan : And inside they was playin' over and over agen, “The Party's Over”

They are dancing together and she touches his arm timidly) Sleep with me tonight? E rn : T hat’d be fantastic. P an : I mean it Ern. E rn : Yeah! And next day you'd have me. W hat’s sex to you Pan? It's like some great pagan ritual or somethin'. I'd be committed, swallowed alive. 1 couldn't go through all that again. P an : I’ve changed. E rn : Have you? The self doesn’t change you said.

Ern drops Pan. who stands stunned. He runs up the stairs to Ethel and lifts her up out of her chair. Remember them long summer nights when we shared your bed Ettie? E rn :

Ethel lays her head on his shoulder, smiling happily. E th e i: We was so happy Ern, you and me in our little bed sit wiv the Early Kooka burnin' the snags. E rn : Didya miss me when 1 was gone love? E th e l: Oh! 1 missed you and was the only one follered you out ter Rookwood in the bloody rain. They never come, all your flash mates, too busy wiv their speed and their fake magic. Nobody but me ter read over your grave Ernie. The rain dripped down me neck onter me widder's weeds. Me best black crepe shrunk up above me knees, the black dye ran inter me swami underwear. I cried buckets, but no, it never brung you back. E rn : I'm back now Ett, with knobs on. E th e l: Oh yeah! She wants you back now don’t she. A corpse weren't her idea of a good time. A corpse don’t . . you know what .. . does it? She never even dropped a ferget-me-not inter that black hole. But i loved you for y’self, dead or

alive. We've always been out of it Ern. (to Pan) Don't let 'er look at me like that. Stop 'er lookin’ Ern. She’s old and ugly now like me. and she don't like it.

Ethel sits. Ern moves to Pan. stares at her. E rn : She's right y'know Pandora. You have grown old and ugly.

Pan drops herface in her hands. E rn : (centre) You said 1 couldn't adapt Goose. I couldn't fit in anymore. But you’re wrong. You're all wrong, it's you who don’t fit in. Eve always been utterly adaptable, because I'm eternally young. M ac : You're dead Ern. E rn : And you're lucked Mac.

Ern moves forward, raging now. E rn : Where’s Vadims and Repins and the Dawn and Dusk Club, Harry Hootan and Lillian Roxton and the Push, Lawson sellin’ his poems at Central for a swy, Ian Idriess climbin’ the stairs to old Anguish and Robbery with The Drums of Mer in his hip pocket, Chris Brennan declaimin’ Catallus, and Hugh McCrea bawlin’ “I am the lord, I am the lord, I am the lord of everything”. But you’re the lords of nothin’. You’ve saved nothin’, built nothin’ to last, only a few roarin’ black holes to fill the emptiness. A nation of lags and screws, a pack of whinging immigrants, and what were we goin’ to do? Do you remember what we were goin’ to do? We were the new Romantics, the Libertarians, the first free ones ... connecting Art and Life so much we’d die for it. Without a vision the people perish... Ern pauses, listening. He smiles like a child. Listen can you still hear the currawongs singing in the plane trees along Victoria Street? Tink moves in on Ern, batting his eyes. Ern turns contemptuously. E rn : Okay baby, whadda you want? T ln k : I think you're really somethin’ sweetheart really tough, really animal. (Tink savagely pins Ern’s arms up his back) But you know all you’re good for don’t you sweetie. A finger fuck that’s all. E th e l: You’re not goin’ wiv him are you Ernie? You was always such a good boy. E rn : We all gotta survive Ettie. It’s the law of the jungle, (to Tink, almost affectionately) Okay, you big, silly, shit-arsed queen. Show me a good time in this old town tonight, and we’ll take to the badlands playin’ Nat King Cole. Tink giggles. Ern hesitates as he is dragged past Pandora. E rn : Here’s lookin’ at you kid. Ern and Tink exit. Pan turns away in tears. The Goose vamps softly "As Time Goes By ”. G o o se: Begin again Prim, begin again. Rudi swings Prim on top o f the bar, and speaks his monologue over the music. R u d i: Prim was the greatest stripper the Cross ever seen. She was the original whore wiv the heart of gold. She was springtime in the Rockies and she took orf her clothes like po’try. Them little chromes standin’ on the corners wiv their mandies in their handbags, they dunno what class is. An’ they never will. F ra n : (objecting) Ay! Pardon me for livin’. R u d i: But Prim knew. One bump an’ grind of her silken hips was worth a dozen shags wiv any other woman. I was only a kid then but I usta save up me dough with the one thought, one day when I’m big enough to get a decent hard on I’ll buy me a screw from Prim. But the sad fact is that time don’t stand still and when I was old enough to screw Prim, she was too bloody old to screw. Rudi laughs mirthlessly, and holds Prim away from him, looking her over very deliberately. R u d i: And she turned out ter be a bull-dyke anyway. (He drops her) Jus’ cover it all up babe and I’ll forget all those wet dreams I once had

about you. The Goose plays a discord on the piano. Rudi turns away and sits smoking on the chair, his back to Prim. The Goose starts up “That Old Black Magic" as Prim speaks her monologue over the piano. P rim : I was in love once with this wop with the midnight blue eyes. I seen him every day in the Rex or the Piccolo. I usta trail him down Victoria Street. I was too shy to say anythin’. I loved him one whole summer and that's a long timeforaputini... F ra n : Ay? P rim : That’s Greek for whore. I usta see Last Card Louie at the Kashmir. He was workin’ for Abe Saffron. He’d catch your arm: Hallo Girlie, lookin’ for a job? Welcome to Sydney. Then I met Vicki Constantino, a six foot tall dyke in black fox, red hair piled up high. She'd been away to California with Ava Gardner. Louis’d say, Vicki’s after you Prim. Are you square? And I'd say, no, no, I was so damn green I didn’t even know what “square” meant. He’d tip up me face and smile, “Yeah baby, you are. You’re really square.” (pause) Oh’. I was square all right. I loved this Cooktown soldier. I coulda been a whore years before. I had all the offers. I coulda been makin’ real money. I was in me prime, if that bastard hadn’t taken up me precious time. (Prim moves behind the bar, dreaming) When I moved in with Vick we usta meet Last Card Louis in the Kashmir. He’d buy us a drink and he’d say, “You was so square Prim. You was unbelievable. You was like Springtime.” He wasn’t a bad poor bastard. Last Card Louis. Enter Tinkerbell, teetering on spike-heeled anklestraps, high piled blonde wig, dangling earrings, lame evening dress, feather boa, heavy make-up. R u d i: (laughing) Here’s Sergeant Tinkerbell, here’s a lady with a load on. P a n : Where’s Ern? T in k : I left him at the clap clinic. It was so old fashioned it was lovely. We had a knee trembler in the rotunda at Green Park. R u d i: (drunkenly) Give us a song Tink. Give us a bit of the old magic. I wanta remember what it was like when I was a kid and run messages for Tilly Divine, when the whole town was jumpin’, and all the whores in Palmer Street wore Jap. kirns, and had some style. T in k : (archly) And I was playing Amateur Night at the Purple Onion. He stands imperiously and beckons to The Goose. T in k : Give us a note there dear.

The Goose hits the note o ff key several times. Why don’t you get yourself tuned up pet. Rudi and Tink fall about laughing. Tink holds up his hand. The lights dim, spot on Tinkerbell. T in k :

TINKERBELL (sings:) I'm just a pig in a wig, my name is Tinkerbell, and I'm looking for me Peter Pan. T in k :

When the game gets rough I strut me stuff I do the best I can. I’m just a pig in a wig workin' for Mr Big and 1 get me slingbacks .. . only if you think I’m stacked then make me Jack, ’cause my silicone tits are lonely. I’m just a sentimental lady on the side, I'd like to go to the Tunnel of Love for a ride. I'd like to go out dancin' THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978


with coses and champagne, I’d like to wear your orchid it might help to dull the pain, so all you spunky boys on the game, you’re doin’ fine, you’re doin’ swell, but when the bars are shuttin’ and the young queens are out struttin’ spare a thought for T inkerbell.. . spare a thought for the old queens, Spare a thought for the Has-beens, remember all the Girls doin' what they can, hangin' in there, hangin’ in there, workin' for the Man.

They all sing and dance, including "Mac in his straightjacket, Pan in her handcuffs. Ethel joins them and they dance up and down the staircase. The choreography must be designed so that at the end o f the song Rudi and Tinkerbell are left on top o f the stairs, dominating the others below. A ll: I’m just a pig, in a wig, workin' for Mr Big, I get me slingbacks. . .only if you think I'm stacked then make me Jack ‘cause my silicone tits are lonely.

When the game gets rough, I strut me stuff, I’m just an also-ran. I'm just a pig in a wig, me name is Tinkerbell and I’m lookin' for me Peter Pan O yes I’m lonely . .. lookin’ for me Peter Pan.

The jackhammers shatter the song as Rudi on top o f the stairs breaks the mood. The Goose begins to vamp then stops dead. R u di: Mr Big says the more land you got the higher you build. T in k : Mr Big wants your space babies. R u di: If Mr Big says OUT, you move your arses. T in k : ’Cause 'e wants ter build some office blocks a n ’ some blue movie 'ouses. R u d i: If land costs fifty bucks a foot, a course you finish up with high rise. Stands ter reason. You six or seven cats are awlright but you’re trespassin’. You need progress, development. T in k : Ah, it’s just a few Commos a n ’ troublemakers, a few narks on the make. The ’eroes always make it ard for the rest of us, but we'll find yous all rooms. We’ll move yous inter a nice place across the road. F ra n : But there aint no nice places acwoss the woad, Wude. R u di: Shut your big gob or we’ll shut it good.

The villagers huddle below staring at Rudi and Tink in disbelief. E th e l: W here’ll I keep E rn’s dinner hot if yous knock down the Village? G oo se: If you knock down the Village where will I go. I’ll be on the run. It’s an offence they said, a very grave offence, a breach of the Custom ’s Act. These exhibits speak for themselves, these prints all demonstrate .. a certain form of abberation.

Goose stands, Jumbling in his pockets, dragging out postcards, and photos, scattering them nervously on stage. Then he drops on his knees gathering them up again. M ac : They’ll vag me and take me back to Ryde. They’ve had a clean white cell waiting there for me for years. I’ll sit, staring at their green lawns, listening to the dementia praecoxes babbling, the melancholics sobbing under my barred window, and never know they're me. F ra n : I’ll haveta find anover pitch, and they’re all staked out. Them big, tough bull-dykes ’as got ’em all. They’d kill yous, soon as look at yous. 38


But I'm not like them. I'm gentle. Anyway, whatever ’appens I'm not goin' back to Blacktown for me ol' Dad to slap about. 1 knows that. T h e G oo se: I said, regretfully, I bid farewell to Australia where 1 have spent so many happy years, making my modest contribution to the cultural life of Sydney. 1 will continue my life’s work elsewhere. I will leave for Rome.

He giggles, spreading his arms around the Village. This is my Rome. P rim : How dya think I’d make out now as a Go-Go girl, nailed to one a them booths, naked on me platform sofles, goin’ from strip club to strip club in me rabbit skin coat, takin’ it off for the bastards from the bush, and me a good Catholic. R u d i: You’ll be compensated. P rim : Will I? You're goin' to compensate me for my life are you? Who are you then? Jesus Christ? 1 remember you. You was that little snotty-nosed kid usta crawl around the Pink Pussy Cat pickin' up bumpers, waitin' for me to get me gear off. You couldn’t compensate me. P an : 1 came down the hill from East Sydney Tec. with me airbrush, perspex and gold leaf, to sit in the Kashmir and be a celebrity. They said 1 kept a black panther in me room, and 1 did. His name was Ern Malley. E th e l: Don't yous worry. Ern'II fix it. Ern can fix anythin'. He’s got the gift of the gab.

Ern enters right, stands watching them. E rn : Ern'II fix what?

Ethel runs to him. E th e l: They re throwin’ us out Ernie. They're demolishin' us. R u d i: We’re goin’ to bulldoze this whole bloody shit down, because it’s nothin’ but a ghetto. Tink twirls his baton. T in k : So if you got any sentimental feelin’s Ern baby... E rn : I come from Taverner’s they tell me. M ac : Ern Malley, true to form, neo-romantic, artiste extraordinaire, last of the great Oz fascisti. Mac rises, tries to bow, topples over on thefloor. E rn : Why don’t you cool it Mac? M a c : Why don’t you free me Ern? E rn : I thought the boot was on the other foot, Svangeli. Ern crosses, helps Mac up, undoes his straightjacket, sticks a cigarette in Mac's mouth and lights it. E rn : You see, I’ve never been real and I wanted to be real. I was just the sum of all you wanted me to be. You told them I was a fake Mac, you crucified me, but it blew up in your face. (He turns and crosses to Pan) You used me, all of you. Why did you bring me back again Pan? P an : I think I wanted to work it all out this time. The last time I saw you was five oclock in the morning when they carried you out past the fountain. You was so pale, you looked like death. And I thought suddenly, Ern is dead. He’ll never make me suffer again, I’ll never lie in bed with my cunt aching for him, or my wrists bruised blue. And then I missed you. You can’t imagine what it was like here after you died. I tried to die too. E rn : (angry) How? P a n : I took pills. I got prescriptions for dozens of pills. E rn : What sort of pills? P an : I can’t remember, sleepin’ pills, just sleepin’ pills. I wanted to sleep. E rn : That’s got nothin’ to do with me. If I’da been here I’d of tried to stop you, but I wasn't here was I, so for me, it never happened. Can't you see that? Ern kisses her. P a n : (shivering) You kiss me, but it’s cold as

clay. Ern drops her violently. E rn : (brutally) Why doncha just open your legs and relax lady? You’d do a lot more good for yourself. Pan recoils. Ern turns away, almost sadly, in another rapid mood change. E rn : The past is always so seductive, part­ icularly if you don’t believe it ever really happened. Pan moves to the barfor a drink. Ethel calls Ern back to her. E th e l: I wanta have a past too Ernie. What did I do when I was a little girl? E rn : You sat on Taverner’s Hill and made up mad little songs. E th e l: Did I make them up meself? E rn : No, I made them up for you. E th e l: I want to make up somethin' for meself. Just somethin’. E rn : (kindly) I think you made up stories too. E th e l: (eagerly) Did I? What kinda stories? E rn : Movie stories. E th e l: Who was the heroine? E rn : Doris Day. It was always Doris Day. E th e l: Was there a hero? E rn : Yeah, yeah, there was. E th e l: Who, who? E rn : (firmly) Peter Lorre. You had the hots for Peter Lorre. E th e l: (amazed) Peter Lorre in love wiv Doris Day? E rn : It was continuous, like a serial. E th e l: (sadly) ite z, I musta been diff'rent then. E rn : You were a little girl. E th e l: I could make up some more. E rn : (bored) Yeah, why doncha Ett? E th e l: I think I will. I will. I’ll go on up now and when you get home Ernie I’ll have a new one waitin’. It’ll be better than colour TV. Ethel climbs the stairs and sits, hands folded, eyes closed, lips moving. E rn : (uneasy) Well, I’ll be on me way Ett. (loudly) Ett! E th e l: (dreamily) Ter meet one hundred Doris Days. Ern shakes his head, moves to the bar. Rudi is angry at the interruptions. R u d i: Lissen yous we wont fuck about. We’ll say “pack yer ports, move yer arses, we don’t wanta see you mugs agen. P rim : We won't move. R u d i: You’ll move awlright, feet first wiv a lumpa concrete round your necks. You’ll move. P rim : Where to? R u d i: Out ter Mt Druitt. P rim : Mt bloody Druitt. Pigs arse we will. We’re not movin’ out ter Mt Druitt. What the fuck would we do in Mt Druitt? M a c : Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, if the booze don't get you the developers must. G o o s e : We’ll lobby the National Trust. R u d i: The National Trust! It’s like an ol’ gummy bitch barkin’ up the wrong tree. G o o s e : We're part of the National Heritage. R u d i: (laughing) The National Heritage: three molls, a looney and two derros! Well’. Maybe you’ve got somethin' at that. P rim : It’s awful to watch people movin’ out. Have you ever noticed? It’s like a wartorn city. They come outa the woodwork, dazed, helpless, like refugees, with fifty bucks in their hands to store their lives away in a taxi truck. T in k : Ah! y’ get on me tits. R u d i: (to Prim) An’ we just don’t like you messin’ it baby. Rudi and Tink move downstairs. M ac : In two years the Village ’ll be derelict. Concrete, glass and metal! These bastards don’t care about us. We're the shit of the earth. P rim : We wont move. R u di: What are yous all? Idiots, martyrs, or

j somethin’? D’ya like ter suffer? ] P rim : I'm just a Mick, that’s all. j Tink and Rudi get a drink at the bar. Prim starts humming. P rim : (humming) Proddy cats sit on mats, eatin’ maggots outa rats, Catholic dogs jump like frogs in a dish of holy water. E rn : I gotta find somebody to sleep with tonight. M ac: Frightened of the dark? E rn : You oughta know. How dya reckon you and I’d go Prim? You’re still a good lookin’ chick. Would y’ like to be one of my girlfriends? All you have ta do is hold me. P rim : I might make it with Ethel. Ethel needs a girlfriend. E rn : Yeah! there’s a lot to Ethel, but nobody ever finds it out. I guess they never had much of a chance with me around. P rim : I might ask her down for a drink. E rn : Yeah, why doncha. She’d like that. Nobody ever asks her anywhere. He moves about the Village restlessly. E rn : I’ve gotta find somebody for the night. (To Fran) You need another customer? F ra n : It’s real quiet. Nobody cornin’ by. E rn : I’m broke, got no bread. F ra n : Ah! 1 guess I could afford one on the house. Delighted Ern moves across to Fran, puts his arm around her. E rn : We'll go to Costellos and the Hooker Rex, and pick up some booze and some shit. Will you be one of my girlfriends Fran? M ac : The world’s full of all your old brides in their old wedding gowns. While Ern sweet-talks Fran by the fountain Rudi pulls his bar stool downstage. R u d i: 1 wanted ter be a toecutter for the painters and dockers see, but I never had the skills. Them toecutters was real tough babies. I usta wait down the enda the wharf outside the pick-up shed to be called for the roster. We was seagulls, see. If no union men showed we got the leavin’s. It don't do much for your image. He takes pliers out o f his pocket and removes his shoe, gloomily staring at his toes. Sometimes I think, why not practice on meself, get me hand in. But you wouldn’t want a toecutter wivout any toes would yous. Wouldn't look professional. Wouldn’t build up the confidence. Rudi begins his country and western number. RIDE AROUND LITTLE RUDI (Lyrics, Merv Lilley) I’m Rudi Roderega, I’m a cowpoke from the Cross, I was born in McLeay Street astride a big black hoss, Which tended to stumble causin’ premature birth, But I rode it ten seconds before meetin’ the earth. A ll: Ride around little Rudi, ride around slow, Rake at the spare ribs and watch the head go, Spur at the shoulders and watch the blood flow Ride em ten seconds is all that I know. R u d i: I ran round the markets and crossed to the Cross To court Primivera for better or wuss, She stepped like a filly with thoroughbred lines, And I thought ’er more beautiful than King Solomon’s mines. I sought out me fortune at each rodeo, A ll: Ride round little Rudi, ride around slow, Spur at the shoulders and watch the blood flow, Ride em ten seconds at the big rodeo. R udi: Once up in the clouds and smokin’ some grass,

I shot at a bullseye, hit a pig in the arse, A ll: Ride around little Rudi, ride around slow, R u d i: Take your time at stonebreakin’ with

some years to go. A ll: Ride around little Rudi, wivout any hoss, R u d i: Its a long time in Bathurst for a boy from

the Cross, But when I got pardoned I made some dough fast To court Primivera and screw’er at last. I'm Rudi Roderega, bolt cutters in tow, I blow the odd safe to make the big dough. A ll: Ride around little Rudi, ride around slow, R u d i: Tell where the stuff is or I chop orf y’ toe. I’m Rudi Roderega I work for Mr Big He can use a tough hombre who can stick a pig. I’ve tied up me bronco, took me poly saddle down, Can’t find Primivera though I’ve searched the town. A ll: Ride around little Rudi, ride around slow, Watch for Primivera, she might be on the go, Though the grass is all trammelled and the hitchin’ rail gone, You can ride round McLeay Street if you can raise a bone. All repeat Chorus. T in k : Why lover I never knew you was that sentimental. R u d i: Ah, piss orf Queenie. Don’t get y’ tits in a knot. Tink begins to sob. T in k : Nobody wants me, and there’s nothin’ sadder than an old drama queen. I wishd I’d never gone inter the Purple Onion, never tried on all that lovely drag, never met Carlotta. I coulda been a nice straight young copper, twirlin’ me baton down Palmer Street, takin' a back hander from the molls. E rn : Why doncha take Rudi upstairs Pan, and give him one. Sweet talk him under your guttering candles, sacrifice y’self for us all. He’s got them nice Nureyev cheekbones. Ern crosses right with Fran on his arm. T in k : Wait for me Ern. E rn : You’re not much of a screw Sergeant Tinkerbell. T in k : And you’re such a little turd aren’t y’? Such a fuckin’ little floosie. Well, I don’t wanna be a gooseberry. Heaven Forbid! Just drop me orf at Patches. Tink flounces off right. Rudi thoughtfully puts on his shoe, crosses to Pan at the bar. R u d i: Cornin’ then babe? He takes her hand, and they move slowly up the stairs. Ern watches them go, his arm around Fran. E rn : (to Pan) You fixed up for the night then Pan? Pan ignores him and keeps on climbing. Ern moves to thefoot o f the stairs, calling up to her. E rn : You’ll always be there Pan. (pause) Like Ethel. Does a fuck really make all that difference? (long pause) (angry) I know, for you it’s some great magic ceremony. It binds me to you forever, (pause) There's only now Pan. I only recognise now. We live now that’s all. Those terrible days don’t exist anymore. They’re past, they're over, (pause) Who’s your best friend? (pause) I love you Pan. Pan swings round savagely at the top o f the stairs. P an : I know exactly where I come in your pantheon of women. I come after a drag queen, a dyke and a hooker. E rn : So why didn’t you leave me out there? P an : It was my last big fling. They stare at each other. E rn : And I’m just a promiscuous actor. P an : Whores are always promiscuous. Pan moves to the cushions with Rudi. Ern exits right laughing with Fran. The Goose begins to

play "Lady be Good” very softly, as Rudi and Pan begin to kiss. Mac takes a long drink. M a c : (drunkenly) The psychopath is an arch exhibitionist. He uses all the accepted phrases, contrition, love, gratitude as convenient coin in the game of human relationships. He knows the answers but he never knows their meaning. Mac’s head drops on the table, the bottle crashes to thefloor. G o o s e : (dreaming) I could be conducting La Stupenda at the Opera House tonight. Giggling Rudi and Pan begin to undress each other. Rudi is covered in tattoos from neck to ankles. Admiringly Pan turns him round and round tracing his tattoos. P rim : (calling) Like a drink Ettie? It's on the house. Ethel moves primly downstairs. The lights have faded everywhere except for the spot on Prim’s bar. Ethel awkwardly balances on the bar stool. Prim slides a beer across to her. E th e l: When 1 die nobody will ever have heard of me. There’ll be no sign, no plaque saying “Ethel Malley lived here”. I’ll be like Hans Anderson’s little sea maid, foam on the seashore, dissolved in a tenth of a second. (Ethel giggles) I was makin’ up this story just now Prim. Wanta hear it? Prim nods, wiping down the bar. E th e l: Well, it was all about this girl who looked like Doris Day, all fresh an’ young, like springtime. You remember. (She clutches Prim's arm. Prim stops wiping) She's jus’ startin’ ter work the bars, and there’s alwiz this feller sittin’ there, in the corner, crackin’ his knuckles. He’s her pimp see, and he looks like Peter Lorre. And then one night he strangles her, throws her inter the Harbour, with a concrete slab round her neck...and the sharks get her, or p’raps...he buries her under the tarmac on Ansett runway where all them Jumbo jets take orf for London an’ New York...or...p’raps he chops her up an’ feeds her down the garbage shaft, an’ nobody never fishes her up agen. Prim silently pours Ethel another drink. Their eyes lock. P rim : (with bravado) My philosophy’s always been...hold all things lightly. Upstairs Rudi, naked, stretches luxuriously against the skyline, and then lies smoking on Pan s cushions. In the dim light there is a flash o f lightning, thunder rolls, rain begins. R u d i: Weather’s changin’. Southerly buster blowin’ up. Pan pulls a white, semi transparent robe around her and stands staring out at the rainy lights, her back to the audience. Then she stretches out her arms to the sky clouds and it begins to rain. A t the end o f Act One the rain increases, the sky darkens, then really darkens. P an : I hear thunder, a flash of lightnin’ lights the loft, a blast of thunder hits the sky. The floor moves under me feet. P rim : It’s holy Saturdee. I think I’ll go to First Mass at dawn. R u d i: Come ter bed Pan. Pan moves across to him. The Goose vamps a slow skat on the piano. Mac raises his head and stares outfront. M ac : Cold night for a drunk. G o o se: Cold night for us all. The light moves o ff Ethel and Prim onto The Goose who plays a little night music, softly, for everyone, until the lightfades out altogether. THE GOOSE’S SONG: THE KNAVE OF HEARTS T h e G o o se: There's a time to love another and a time to close the chapter, Before all the words are guilty, but the game was such a wild one, THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978


and she wore her scarlet dresses, she travelled through the country like a devil and an angel, and she met him in the garden when it rained and when it thundered, she had lost the game and knew it, but the odds were still the same. Repeat Chorus. For she was the Queen of Diamonds, and she was the Queen of Glory, he had crowned her in the morning and she had the Knave of Hearts. Her cards were on the table,

that no ending seems the right one. Though the barrels are all empty, and their duelling days are over, she keeps on playing roulette just the same. C h o ru s : For he was the Jack of Diamonds and he was the King of Glory, and she crowned him in the morning when her cards were on the table, never knew he was a Joker, and the Joker was a wild one, never knew he palmed the aces, and he was the Knave of Hearts. For her hands were ringed with silver

and she held a royal routine, she lay with him at midnight and never heard the chimes. Repeat Chorus. And she thought about the time when she was free and didn’t know him, didn’t know the room where all the palm trees were a wonder. In her simple silver bracelet she saw that he’d never seen her and she knew the dream was over and she’d dreamt it all alone. Repeat Chorus.

END OF ACT ONE (Continued from page 32) which, in cane chairs sit the middle-aged Peer and his international band of capitalists in white suits. And behind them a splendid mechanical ship which in due course sinks to a ricketty death with all hands. As the first act is to do with dreams of physical prowess, so the second is con­ cerned with power and luxury. After devoting his selfishness to the slave trade and other profitable occupations Peer becomes a tycoon with ambitions of empire; and by the end of the act these have led him to a madhouse where “ reason died last night at eleven o’clock’’ and where he wins his crown of straw. By Act Three the inspiration is death and decay as Peer makes his way home to his native land through shipwreck. There he encounters the Button Moulder, who wants his body to melt down with the common mass because he has been insufficiently himself to qualify for either Heaven or Hell. At the point of death Peer comes to understand that self-sufficiency is a denial of the spirit and that he has truly lived only in the faith and love of the patient Solveig. The reconciliation, in this production, is touchingly couched in an

Easter festival which gives a benison to the end of the play. The whole is a stupendous achievement once more dem onstrating incontrovertably that a regional theatre without its own ensemble is a self-defeating project. The three Peers work in harmony, responsive to the single discipline and even acquire a vocal homogeneity. Michael Siberry, only two years out of NIDA, is already an actor of force, magnetism and cool ease: an actor with a future. Fitzpatrick’s engaging wit makes the second act sail along and launches it, redolent with images of death and madness into the dark self-pity of the old man portrayed by Brian James. Of the huge fine cast one further actor must be mentioned. Les Dayman is a really splendid character actor these days. Here his three roles: the Troll King, the southern tycoon Cotton and the German madman, Begriffenfeldt, are each in their way adm irable creations. it takes time to build a company to a peak. With each director this company, like others, has had its ups and downs. After nearly two years of steady work under Colin George the whole unit is pulling together wonderfully. Long may it continue.

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Q U O T E S & Q U E R IE S is as susceptible to rapid changes, to future shock, as any part of our society.” “1 object particularly to published statements that Sir Robert Helpmann is quickly getting the services of Kathyrn (SIC) Hepburn and other overseas artists to get the Old Tote going again. (Bobby is inviting Katie and friends to help us out). Well, Australian theatre has come a long way since we needed this sort of patronage and obsession with overseas stars, in the best cultural cringe tradition, in their declining years.” “It is hardly necessary to say (though 1 will for Sir Robert’s benefit) that Australian theatre, in the last ten years, has gone through a great renaissance in play and script writing, production techniques and acting, and Australian audiences have taken to their own plays with tremendous enthusiasm. They have embraced the Australian content, language and actors in ways which hardly seemed possible ten years ago.” 40


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C ynthia Gregory and Fernando Bujones in G r a n d P as C la ssiq u e by Victor Gsovsky. Photo: Branco Gaica.

Apart from being thankful for being able to see so many revered international dance stars working on one stage together, the Edgley extravaganza Twenty Stars o f World Ballet, was a most welcome lift to me after having to endure the scrappy, on again off again performances from the overworked Australian Ballet. Here at last one could sit content, not worrying whether the dancers would make it through the night. Here one could witness relatively faultless, secure dancing of many differing styles. To be fair of course, the entire international compote was made up of prima ballerina's and premier danseurs, all of them at the top of their profession. In fact, upon reflection, one did tend to boggle at the audacity and logistics involved in the enterprise. Normally such a line up is reserved for a Covent Garden or Metropolitan gala first night. To have them together for a five week tour of the Australian continent takes a lot of persuasion, organisation and money. Whatever I think of his paucity of talent in other fields, Sir Robert Helpmann has more

than a nodding acquaintance with most of the superstars of the international dance world and must have done a lot of fast talking to interest all these people in a tour. But that’s the sort of charm he has in abundance. Perhaps it was the sheer novelty of the experience that prompted them all to appear together, these stars from Russia, Britain, Germany, Japan and America and Denmark (from all accounts the morning classes were a riot); perhaps the concept of a touring gala tickled their fancy or maybe just the draw of dancing in a new country. Whatever the reasons, the Edgley organization got them out here and managed by and large to bring all the promised personel and keep them for the entirety of the tour. Such an evening as The Twenty Stars o f World Ballet acts as a bracer in more ways than one; for the critics it is a chance to see top line dancing from overseas by which to judge the local product (as they rarely get a chance to get overseas to judge the product on home ground). It offers audiences a quick peek at some works

and styles of choreography that they hitherto have been ignorant of and for practically everyone it offers the welcome tonic of witnessing some different manners of dancing apart from the limp RAD method that seems to pervade the Australian Ballet. There are a few gripes one could pass on about the whole venture. Firstly, on the experience of the opening night in Sydney, the programme, at four hours in length, is far too long. Towards the end Edgley’s could have ressurrected Nijinsky and Pavlova and no one would have noticed, by then the whole thing had started to pall. Secondly, the selections were pretty boringly predictable with the usual Black Swans, White Swans and Don Q’s interspersed with a few off-the-beaten-track pieces (it was however saved by having Flemming Flindt’s The Lesson danced by the original Danish cast apart from Anna Maria del Angelo). It cannot be said of the different dancers and their styles, that one was better than the other, each one was representative of their training and THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978


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their adoptive company. For gracefulness and poise one would travel far to find something as serene and effortless as Merle Park and Wayne Eagling in the Aurora pas de duex. The Royal Ballet being their background, it was to be expected that they would fill this most aristocratic of dances with regality and hauteur, but to do it with such sureness and lightness of touch, with such soft port de bras and epaulment made it seem everything that a wedding dance of a prince and a princess should be. Cynthia Gregory dancing in the Grand Pas Classique, with American dance wunderkind Fernando Bujones, worried some people. She seemed too big, too ungainly, her dancing too severe and athletic, well that again was her training; Athleticism is at the heart of American dance, the trouble is that a lot of the time the heart is missing. But Gregory’s technique cannot be faulted; her sense of balance is rock solid, nothing seems too hard and for me, that was the trouble. It was a Look-ma-no-hands approach, far too smug to be appealing, but it gave everyone a chance to see something and someone unique. As for Bujones, he was as dry and mechahically doll-like as the two Japanese dancers (more of whom later). No depth, no subtlety, just pyrotechniques. Sure pyrotechnics are wanted in La Corsair, but I’ve seen him in Swan Lake and Giselle and his performances in those works seemed to be computed by IBM. Maris Liepa and Marina Kondratieva from the Bolshoi sprang and leapt about in Messerer's war horse, Spring Waters. It’s got lots of lovely jumps and heart stopping catches and lasts for all of five minutes. We didn’t see them at all after that on the opening night, if you blinked, you missed them. Maina Gielgud, hailing in part from Bejart's Ballet of the 20th century danced her own little speciality. Forme et Ligne otherwise known in the business as Squeaky Door simply because the “music” is Pierre Henry’s Variations pour la Porteur et Soupir. Although she has put on a lot of weight since I last saw her, she is still intriguing and sybilline in this weird rag bag of bits that didn’t get into Bejart’s Bahkti. It’s oriental, it's hard edged this ballet; sometimes looking like the dance of Shiva (the one who danced the Universe into existence) at other times looking like a class exercise, Squeaky Door is as infuriating yet uplifting as everything Bejart does. Peter Bruer, coming from the Düsseldorf Opera Ballet danced a rather old hattish paen to the male body set to that terribly old hattish Adagio of Albinoni. You know the sort of things anguished weighted dancing all rippling pectorals and genital bulge. There were quite a few fogged up opera glasses leaning forward around me, but it left me stone cold. As I mentioned above, what saved the evening as an evening, instead of letting it become the balletic equivalent of a box of Winning Post chocolates was Flemming Flindt's The Lesson. Based on the Ionesco play of the same name, it added a welcome dash of vinegar

and gall to the over sweetness of the programme. Built slowly out of the conventions of a dance class it turns chillingly into a stylised rape/murder, a twisted parable of the dancer sacrificing himself for his lor in this case her) art. What was even more welcome was to see it performed by Flemming Flindt himself and his wife Vivi las the pianist) both from the Royal Danish Ballet. As the young ballerina who gets the chop we saw Anna Maria del Angelo from the New York Robert Joffrey company. Again there was that brittle show biz edge to the dancing, but here at least it was suitable. There's not meant to be any heart in this Ionesco ballet, its all hard, cold, ironic and absurd (just like Flindt’s other Ionesco ballet The Triumph o f Death). Yoko Morishita and Tetsutaro Shimizu, dancing the Don Q pas de deux had people standing on their seats by the end, so truly

Maina Gielgud in Forme et Ligne (Squeaky Door) by Maurice Bejart. Photo: Branco Gaica. exhilarating were they with the fleet and dazzling all that’s needed for Don Q. I hope I’m not being patronising when I say that perhaps their small stature and fine boned bodies helped them no end here, especially when Yoko seemingly flew up into a one handed lift with her husband. Being lightweight has always been a help in classical dance but I still got the unnerving feeling that this was a Don Q danced by ceramic dolls. I wished that they hadn’t been type cast (like nearly everyone in this performance was); I would have relished seeing them in something more lyrical. And so we come to the great draw card of the evening Dame Margot Fonteyn dancing with the (probable) new Artistic Director of the Australian Ballet Ivan Nagy (wonder how long he’ll last). Fonteyn no longer leaps and bounces around, and in any case she had no need to. We already had our fill of india-rubber displays by the time she and Nagy came on in George Skibine's Romeo and Juliet. What we got here was not so much a sketch of a performance but the distillation of a performance right down to the

most economic gestures of emotion and form. Fonteyn’s line is still perfect, she always was a lyrical dancer never a technician, and she always worked best with a story or a theme; Balanchinian mathematics were never her forte. Added to that, she has always shone best when dancing with an excellent partner and Nagy is one of the most thoughtful partners in the ballet today, (iregory, Markarova, Merle Park and Fonteyn will all testify to that. Skibine uses Berlioz's music for his R and J, and only treats the balcony love scene, but it is astounding what he puts into it all. Adolescent flirtation, youthful passion and mature resignation all blend in. The two lovers twine about each other like the proverbial ivy and the vine and finally seem like a transfigured moment in history. It was totally beside the point, while watching her, to realise that Fonteyn is nearly sixty years old. The only pity here was that we couldn’t have seen Nagy dancing something more revealing of his talent, like the La Bayadere pas de deux for example. Lastly we had Vladimir Klos and Birgit Keil dancing two Cranko works, the pas from Taming o f the Shrew, a lovely humane, witty and fiery love/hate duet, and the earlier Holberg Suite. They both danced like a dream, but what could one expect, they were both trained in Cranko’s style (aided by Anne Woolliams) and brought up within his company, of course Cranko’s style would be second nature to them. What was even more heartening was that we didn't have a stuffed and enbalmed version of Cranko’s work, it was fresh and alive as if Cranko had been there watching in the wings. Solos and duets always seem more natural from Cranko, it's the mass scenes, where he has huge forces to marshal that he sometimes gets stuck and invention flags. But in the Holberg duet it was effortless and spontaneous, a dense, lapidary choreography unravelled with ease by Kiel and Klos. These two also brought the right measure of bluster and rumbustious swagger to the Taming o f the Shrew duet without allowing it to fall into slapstick. All in all it was an evening to remember and savour for the future. The whole was accomplished without vast resources and opulent sets. We can't have it all the time of course, one gets fed up with a diet of hors d'oeuvres. Edgley’s plans for the next two or three years include the American Ballet Theatre (hopefully with Tetley’s version of The Rite o f Spring and Tudor's works), the Dance Theatre of Harlem — the renowned all negro classical ballet company; Alvin Ailey’s company — the renowned all negro modern dance company, and the Bolshoi Ballet once more. They are also bringing out a Nureyev and Friends package, like I suggested in this column last year, maybe something at long last is sinking in? It all looks like an envious line up. Could one be greedy and hope one day, that they'll bring out the entire Martha Graham Company, or the New York City Ballet? One hopes. THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978



David Gyger

Opera from the capitals There was no dearth of interesting opera during July and early August in any of the five Australian capital cities I managed to visit, though I could not honestly express unqualified enthusiasm about any of the productions I was able to see. The closest to a night of pure enjoyment in the theatre was the Australian Opera Don Giovanni as premiered at the Sydney Opera House on July 19, but inevitably the high profile event of the month had to be Joan Sutherland’s Australian debut as Norma, which came in the same hall a couple of weeks earlier. It was a night of unequivocal musical triumph for the two principal female soloists, Richard Bonynge and the Elizabethan Sydney Orchestra. It was a night of distinctly qualified success on the male vocalist front, and of the production itself the less said the better. Sutherland has been quoted as saying Norma is her most difficult and demanding role, and it is easy to hear why. Those who grumbled at the fragmentation of Bellini’s two acts into four scenes by the infiltration of three interminable intervals ought to have been utterly silenced by the no doubt improved — even if only marginally — standard of the singing which resulted therefrom. There was no doubt at any stage that Norma is as suitable a vehicle for Sutherland’s prodigious talents as The Merry Widow is not. Nor was there any doubt of the merit of either of the two supporting mezzos who shared the role of Adalgisa in these Normas. Vocally, Margreta Elkins, who opened in the part, perhaps blended marginally better than Heather Begg, who came into the role a little later. But Begg made more of the part dramatically — and besides, both are so good it is just about irrelevant and impertinent to make comparisons. The male soloist department of these Normas was a good deal more equivocal. I have great admiration for Ron Stevens as a singing actor, but he is not by the wildest stretch of the imagination a bel canto tenor: he sang as well as I have ever heard him as Pollione, and cut a fine figure of a Roman proconsul in the dramatic department, but he was nevertheless not wholly satisfying in a part that cries out for as beautiful singing as Norma and Adalgisa. Clifford Grant was a good Oroveso who improved considerably as he settled into the production. The chorus sang sensitively and/or lustily as required by the score. All that said, though, this was a depressing night at the opera for those who demand more of the art form than beautiful sounds. Bellini may well be the epitome of the bel canto art form, but a piece like Norma — his masterpiece — is far from intrinsically undramatic. There 44


are no visual coups in Fiorella Mariani’s designs for this Norma, and a surfeit of visual flaws. The headgear for both sexes is most unbecoming. The gloom in portions of the first and last scenes verges on the stygian. The supposed cave of the middle two scenes looks a good deal more like a squared-off excavation for the mouth of some new multi-track railway tunnel. The denouement makes no attempt to present a funeral pyre on stage, merely has the condemned couple stroll hand in hand off stage

toward a vaguely flickering fire that the uninformed viewer might easily have mistaken for a slightly wonky sunset. Admittedly, the lightly orchestrated tunefulness of Bellini's score — like Donizetti’s score for Lucrezia Borgia — is at serious odds with the dark events being portrayed on stage; but the right production can do much to establish works like these as credible drama. It is unfortunate that Australian audiences have had to endure such unsatisfactory stage realisations

of both pieces in such quick succession, particularly when the singing and orchestral backing in both cases have been so com­ mendable. which graced the stage of the Sydney Opera House closely in the footsteps of Norma, was infinitely better than during its opening seasons in Melbourne and Newcastle a few weeks earlier. Only the sets, costumes and chorus were the same, of course: nearly all the principals were different, not to mention the orchestra and the conductor. There had clearly been some tidying up of stage clutter at various points in the production, but the main change was the injection of the towering presence of the young American bass James Morris into the title role. There was never any doubt whatever as to the merit of Morris’ Don: it was a big reading of the part in every way. Indeed, it was marginally too big for the house and the local company — one geared to the proportions of yawning abysses like the New York Metropolitan. There were times when the very size of Morris’ interpretation swamped the others in the cast; there were more times when he seemed to provoke some of them to oversing, overstretch their vocal resources even, to engage in competitive singing to the detriment of ensemble. But overall this production of Don Giovanni is now a marvellous achievement — far and away the best I have ever seen on stage, and miles in front of the five previous productions of the piece by the AO and its predecessors over the past twenty-odd years. Joan Carden was a convincing and sympathetic Donna Anna despite some trouble at the top of her range on opening night. Lone Koppel-Winther was a suitably pathos-ridden and vixenish Elvira, and coped far better with the part vocally than 1 had dared to hope. Neil Warren-Smith was a forceful and convincing Leporello who never allowed himself to be swamped or upstaged by Morris vocally or dramatically. Henri Wilden was a reliable Don Ottavio in all departments, and Isobel Buchanan a glorious Zerlina vocally if still a trifle ill at ease in the part dramatically. Donald Shanks was an imposing Commendatore. Only Lyndon Terracini’s Masetto was something of a dis­ appointment: nicely sung but too tentative dramatically, as if he were daunted excessively by the admittedly imposing stage presence of Morris. Richard Bonynge kept a tight rein on the proceedings from the pit, and the performance was excellent musically. The period under review was also an extremely active one on the regional front, with major productions in all the eastern capitals and a couple of real triumphs among them. Most successful overall was the season of Mozart’s Idomeneo mounted by Victoria State Opera, featuring Ronald Dowd in the title role and Beverley Bergen as Electra. The relatively simple but marvellously effective production was designed by John Truscott, directed by

Robin Lovejoy and conducted by Richard Divall. Idomeneo is an ideal vehicle for the mature voice and stage presence of Dowd, and he sang it most impressively; and Electra’s marvellously musical vituperations were well handled by Bergen, who ended her evening with a thoroughly unhistorical but dramatically effective suicide in full view of the audience. The appearance of the sea monster, the tempest and sacrifice scenes were all handled most effectively be designer and director. Apart from the two central characters mentioned above, none of the principals was able to cope consistently well with all the difficulties of the vocal line; though both Halina Nieckarz (Ilia) and Graeme Wall (Idamente) were intermittently excellent. The production of Mozart’s Magic Flute mounted by the Queensland Opera Company was a brilliant design triumph for Peter Cooke: equally as excellent, in quite different ways, as John Stoddart’s for the AO of which I am a fairly enthusiastic fan. The star-blazing Queen of the Night really blazed on her first appearance, the three boys’ machine was airborne and suitably space-like, the ordeals by fire and water were handled with great visual effect, etc etc. John Thompson’s production was unfailingly to the point, Graeme Young’s conducting taut and the sounds produced by the Queensland Theatre Orchestra mostly accurate and pleasing. Outstanding among the singers were Phyllis Ball as the Queen of the Night — her second aria, in particular, was more accurate and pleasing in the vocal squiggle department than anything the national company has been able to come up with; Paul Neal’s Papageno and Arthur Johnson’s Monostatos, Sally Robertson’s Pamina, Barry Clarke’s Sarastro and Denis White’s Speaker were all thoroughly satisfying, as was the ensemble singing of the three ladies and the three boys. Sadly the scheduled Tamino, Robert Harrington, was suffering from a severe throat ailment which prevented him from singing most performances (he was replaced by that marvellous and experienced AO exponent of the part, Robert Gard); the night I attended, Harrington did sing, and managed some very authentic Mozartian phrases which indicated he could do full justice to the part when in good voice. The Traviata mounted by State Opera of South Australia late in June and early in July was the lone real disappointment of the period. Marilyn Richardson made some beautiful sounds as Violetta, but never for a moment really convinced me she was dying of consumption; James Christiansen’s Germont Pere was more petulant and peremptory than heartfelt and sonorous; Anthony Roden’s Alfredo sounded well enough, for the most part, but he failed to convey very much involvement in the drama until nearly the very end. John Cervenka’s designs were the major flaw in this Traviata. The party sets of Acts I and III

gave an unfortunate impression of tizziness rather than cafe society opulence. It was a pardonable liberty to move Act II from inside the country home to its terrace and garden; but the atmosphere ended up a cross between the beer garden of a decrepit Australian country pub and a plant nursery in the outer suburbs of one of our big cities: pot plants proliferated, and it took no imagination whatever to visualise a bush dunny just beyond the slightly sagging latticed wall on stage right. Only the last act came more-or-less right visually, and that was far from enough to atone for the sins of the first three. Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring had a fine production in the Canberra Playhouse, designed by James Ridewood, directed by Terence Clarke and conducted by Christopher Lyndon-Gee. Many of the Canberra performers caught the essence of their cameo parts superbly — in particular, perhaps, Joan Richards’ Lady Billows, Bryan Dowling’s Superintendent Budd and Margaret Cleary’s Florence Pike. Most of the costuming was good, though John Lander’s mayor looked more like Sherlock Holmes on the prowl than a civic dignitary. But Raymond Gorringe’s Herring did not quite convince me at any stage: he sang and acted very well but — like most performers capable of coping with the part vocally — simply cannot get away with portraying a rather innocent teenager. Finally came a Gypsy Baron at Sydney’s suburban Rockdale, in which Jennifer Lindfield was an excellent Saffi and Kerry O’Connor a fine Arsena. John Colditz made a good fist of the rustic pig farmer Zsupan, and Andrew Reid was a most assured Barinkay who sang with immense gusto and acted with little subtlety. David Goddard’s production was quite good, and Cedric Ashton’s musical direction was as always eminently reliable. Next month I will catch up with the Australian Opera production of Scarlatti’s Triumph o f Honor, which I saw in Brisbane early in August.

Clifford Grant (Oroveso) and Joan Sutherland (Norma) in the AO’s Norma. Photo: Branco Gaica. THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978


Elizabeth Riddell


Jimmie Blacksmith — a very serious film

Tommy Lewis (Jimmie) and Freddy Reynolds (Mort) in Jimmie Blacksmith The Chant o f Jimmie Blacksm ith is a powerful, emotionally exhausting, profes­ sionally executed and so dem anding in its theme and performances that attention never strays from the screen. I am not going into the fruitless exercise of whether this is the “best” Australian film in this period of resuscitation but it has two or three things going for it that make it at least unique. One is Fred Schepisi’s courage. He has made a film that a lot of people are going to hate. In the foyer of the Hoyt’s Entertainm ent Centre where it had its first Sydney showing (Melbourne and Armidale, which was one of the locations, got it a few nights earlier) voices of an audience which, because it was an invited one, could be expected to be relatively on-side with the film industry were heard complaining of the “violence” and the “unnecessary sex” . I find it interesting that expressed revulsion against violence which started as being a valid protest has now come to be used against necessary truths. People who like nothing much but marshmallows do not differentiate between the violence of, say, Starsky and Hutch, which is designed 46


to excite (though only moderately) people sitting in comfortable chairs in front of their television sets, and violence which is an integral part of a serious drama. Jimmie Blacksmith is a very serious film and I would have expected Fred Schepisi to have thought long and hard before translating the violence of Jimmy Governor/Jimmie Blacksmith from the pages of the newspapers of the times and from Thomas Kenneally’s book on to the screen. As for the sex, it is difficult to make the coupling of a sluttish poor farm girl and a black man, conducted hurriedly in a stable during temporary escape from the censor­ ship of the boss and his wife, a romantic interlude. Later in the story, when Jimmie and Gilda are m arried and living together in a bleak little hut, the scenes between them are tender. There are, however, no tender scenes between blacks and blacks in the dilapidated settlements. Copulation here is taken like a drink from a bottle. T hat gets the detraction (other people’s, not mine) out of the way. Among the splended pluses is the presence of Tommy

Lewis as Jimmie; the sparkling, elegant, almost sweet performance of Freddy Reynolds as Jimmie’s brother Mort; Ray B arrett’s mentally corrupt physically decaying police sergeant Farrell; Ruth Cracknell’s Mrs Newby, encased in the terrible righteousness of the ageing white, juiceless, well-meaning woman; Angela Punch’s sniffling slut, a born victim whose face lights up in some semblance of flawed beauty when Jimmie is inarticulately kind to her. In The Devil's Playground, Schepisi took an adolescent boy and made an actor of him (Simon Burke, who appeared, somewhat older, in The Irishm an] and in Jimm ie Blacksmith he has done the same with Tommy Lewis. Everybody in A ustralia who reads the papers must know by now that Tommy is, or was, an unemployed trainee motor mechanic, twenty years old, from Darwin, who was returning to his home after a trade school course in M elbourne when spotted by the Schepisis at Tullamarine. Unlike David Gulpilil, he had never been a singerdancer-actor with the tribe. (He is half white, whereas Gulpilil is all black.) Yet Lewis is in almost every frame of Jimmie Blacksmith and is called upon to do the most prodigious and concentrated “ acting” He has the advantage of a small-featured, handsome, composed face and an innocent expression which changes to appalling ferocity without contortion. But the real advantage he has, of course, is the producer-writer-director, Fred Schepisi, who knows what to do with film. In the cant phrase., he knows what film-making is all about.

The film opens quietly, with keynote scenes before the titles (which are merci­ fully non-gimmicky and proceeds at a fairly leisurely optimistic pace. Jimmie wants a job, is anxious to please, will work for almost nothing, is continually defraud­ ed of his wages and humiliated. It is plain that given a chance Jimmie will become a whiteman’s Jacky. He even joins the police

force — but gets no boots, as the sergeant sardonically points out: only an uppity black, an object of white suspicion, wears boots, and the acquisition of a pair of boots becomes a milestone in Jimmie’s aborted career — and when a black’s camp is raided Jimmie lays about him, copying the white cops with a will. It takes a real racial shock to disillusion him about the police force. And following the jobs for which he is defrauded, eviction from the farm property when his tribal cousins visit him, the marriage and the persecution it brings from white settlers disgusted and dis­ quieted by such a match, Jimmie breaks. And when he breaks, it is total. He wields his murderous axe as if at tree trunks, and later uses the gun in the same way. A phrase comes back to him from a discussion in the farmhouse kitchen between the cook and a stockman in which the cook (played with greasy enjoyment by Thomas Kenneally) extrapolates on the fact that Britain has “ declared war” on the Boers. So, “ I’ve declared war,” Jimmie shouts

from a great rock as he and Mort flee through the rain forest from the police and the farmers. For about two minutes in this long film Schepisi allows himself a little preachment during a scene in which Mort and Jimmie and the schoolteacher taken as hostage are repairing a vandalised sacred spot on a an escarpment. We don’t need this reminder, because everything is contained in the script. In photographing some awe-inspiring landscape, Ian Baker and Schepisi have avoided scenic cliches. Wendy Dickson’s interiors, claustrophobic in farmhouse, rectory and blacks’ camp make a pointed contrast with the home paddocks, spread­ ing golden plains and towering bush-clad mountains. The film cost $1.2 million, which is no surprise, and was bankrolled by Schepisi’s own company, Film House, The Aust­ ralian Film Commission, the Victorian Film Corporation, Hoyts Theatre (the first Australian film they have helped finance) and private investors.

Newsfront — a triumph of casting

I am going to find it very hard to explain why I think Newsfront is such a successful film, and will be so in terms of box office, because how do you convey the freshness, the liveliness and panache of a story which is really about a knockabout cameraman who has neither physical allure nor mental agility and who gives his all to his job, which is not much of a job anyway? It would have been more logical to have built a dram a around the great Damien Parer, who is now a kind of saint of cinemato­ graphers. Of course Parer gets mutual obeisance, but it is clearly Len Maguire, the lapsed Catholic descendant of Irish immigrants, who is seen to be admirable, a stoical example of mateship and throw­ away decency, played in a trium ph of

casting by Bill Hunter. To digress for a moment, I don’t see H unter coming up as the Spencer Tracy of the new Australian film industry. He has not the right cragginess. But there could not be a better Len Maguire. The story is about the Maguire brothers who are rival cameraman-directors of Cinetone and Newsco, from just after the second world war up to 1956, the year M elbourne staged the Olympic Games. (For Cinetone and Newsco you may read Cinesound and Fox Movietone, both Sydney based operations.) Frank Maguire is a go-getter, Len an occasionally inspired workhorse. Frank goes off to the US, Len stays at home. The story bounces off Len’s domestic life, F rank’s abandonment of his

longtime girlfriend; Len’s assistant, the pommy Chris; F rank’s success in the States; Len’s philosophical retreat from domesticity and the Church and his mostly latent hostility to his boss. T hat is the “ story” . W hat is hard to convey is skill in which the political climate of those years has been filtered into the events and the private lives through subtle writing and direction. There is an especially good scene in the projection room at Cinetone when the narrator (the narrator was an im portant part of newsreel production, in much the same way that a front man on television will gain viewers or repel them; think of the newsreel narrator as the Brian Henderson or James Dibble of the day) objects to a line in his script. He won’t say it because it reflects on a government to which he feels he is beholden for other work. The tense little interlude between the narrator and the editor, a “ radical Pom” , is a highlight of the film. The film is made in a mixture of black and white and colour; such of the material from the newsreel archives as has been used is of course in b and w. O ther newsreel material has been recreated, with astonishing impact. It would be quite wrong to assume that the characters and “ story” are simply used to fill space between the actual newsreels of such events as the Redex car endurance trials, the arrival of the first few hundred thousand immigrants under A rthur Calwell’s postwar scheme, the return of Robert Menzies to power in 1949, floods, bushfires etc. These factual records are, however, likely to be the biggest attraction for two sections of the public; the people who were around when it was all happening will take a nostalgic interest, and obtain a certain pleasure from having their worst or best memories confirmed; and those who have just heard about it from parents or grandparents may be curious to see what it was really like. There are some well-structured charac­ ters in Newsfront, and surprisingly, in view of the immense am ount of action in the film, they are given worthy interpretations. Chris Haywood as Chris is extraordinarily beguiling, there is an interesting perform­ ance from Don Crosby as M aguire’s boss and others from John Ewart, Wendy Hughes, Bryan Brown, Angela Punch (especially Angela Punch as the in-bitten Catholic wife who rationalises her distaste for sex into a case for Catholic scruples about contraception) and John Dease. G erard Kennedy, a patchy actor, is less successful as Frank Maguire, although the character itself is a valid exposition of the kind of Australian who was then, and is now, in thrall to the worst kind of American schlock. The film is produced by David Elfick, directed by Phil Noyce, funded by the Australian Film Commission, the NSW Film Corporation (its first effort) and released by Roadshow. The idea for the story is said to have come from the fertile mind of Bob Ellis. Newsfront went into Cannes a sleeper, and emerged with some glory. It will screen at the New York film festival in September and will open London’s festival in November. THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978


Roger Coveil


Concertos and lieder’s last refuge

Violinists have never been satisfied with having only two solo concertos and one double concerto by J S Bach. Their awareness that Bach, in fact, composed more violin concertos than this has led them to search through his other concertos in the hope of finding lost violin concertos interred in them. They have been encour­ aged to do this because of Bach’s known habit of arranging his own and other people’s concertos in various forms. Prom pted by enthusiasm and ingenuity, the violin enthusiasts have come to the conclusion that some of the missing concertos which they feel rightly should be theirs do exist in the form of harpsichord concertos. The object of several researches in this field has been to identify which of the harpsichord concertos might have been violin concertos and how they can be restored. The harpsichordists, for their part, might seem a little indignant at being deprived of sole ownership of some of these works. In support of violinists, however, it must be said that the harpsichord con­ certos are seldom effective in a modern concert-hall setting. It would be better if they were treated as cham ber music, as it seems they were conceived, with no more than one or two players to each orchestral part. The harpsichord is rarely effective in a contemporary concert-hall without amplification; the violin does have the necessary carrying power. Some of the results of this process of restoration can be heard on a disc made by Nikolaus H arnoncourt’s Concentus Musicus of Vienna, with H arnoncourt’s wife, Alice, as soloist in two violin concertos in G minor and D minor (reclaimed from the harpsichord concertos in F minor and D minor, respectively) and with Jurg Schaeftlein playing the oboe d’amore in a concerto reclaimed from the harpsichord concerto in A [Telefunken 6.42032]. It was kind of the researchers to restore an oboe d’amore concerto, espec­ ially as the oboe d’amore lobby could not be considered particularly powerful. The assumptions about the original character of these works, by the way, are based on considerations of range, typical figuration, passages which look like adaptation to fit a 48


new medium and so on. They are, of course, open to challenge; and it may well be that we are far from hearing the last word on the subject of concerto restoration in Bach. H arnoncourt’s forces play on original instruments of approximately 18th century vintage or on copies of them and have no trouble in maintaining a satisfactory balance between soloist and orchestral group even without the aid of studio recording. Listeners who know this group’s work will not be surprised to learn that the performances are stylish and argue plausibly for the reconstruction attem pt. Only time will tell whether the concertos become more popular in this form than in the harpsichord versions which have come down to us. I imagine that keyboard players will not give up the big D minor concerto at least without a struggle. Pianists who record a series of Mozart piano concertos are inevitably selfselecting. The pianist who has no partic­ ular interest in or sympathy for this marvellous genre of music will be careful not to betray himself except in an occasional concert performance. My own current favourite series of M ozart concerto recordings is the one in progress on Philips involving the pianist Alfred Brendel and M arriner’s Academy of St M artin in the Fields. Although the practice of having the pianist as his own musical director can make an interesting effect in a concert I am not sure that there is much point to doing it on a recording. There are always small imprécisions of chording and general ensemble, as can be heard on the latest disc in the Mozart concerto series undertaken by Murray Perahia and the English Chamber Orchestra. The two concertos are the celebrated D minor, K466 and the smaller-scale one in F,K413. I think a conductor would have made sure that the orchestra characterised the fiery opening bars in the D minor concerto more effectively. The players follow Perahia very well; but there are passages where, with the best will in the world, they are not quite together. About Perahia’s own piano playing there need be no reservations at all. He is clearly among the best and most suitable pianists who have ever attem pted a Mozart concerto cycle. I find him far superior to Baren­ boim ’s often mannered performances and com parable with, though different in style from, the work of Alfred Brendel in the Philips series. A particularly magical movement on this disc is the slow movement of the F major concerto K413. Perahia takes it slower than usual; and the tempo works beautifully. It is a partic­ ularly memorable passage in a record which will give pleasure to Mozart-lovers. it may well be that records will be the last refuge of the traditional lieder recital. This is a genre perceptibly dying in the

concert hall, not for lacking of any intrinsic quality in the music but because the social assumptions of concert-going have changed. Some songs in the lieder tradition can be readily understood and enjoyed in every sense of the word by all listeners. Others do need extraordinarily close attention to the text and to the subtleties of the composer’s treatm ent of it. As the central part of the lieder tradition is, as its name implies, in G erm an this means that many who have attended lieder recitals have had to forego part of the enjoyment which ought to be theirs. At one time the attitude to the concert hall tradition in our community was such that some concert goers might have felt a certain virtue in feeling bored or unenlightened for parts of a lieder recital. I think that kind of stoic church-going attitude has gradually weakened in the last few years. This is not to denigrate lieder in themselves, merely to recognise that they constitute a particularly intimate art for which some of our larger halls are totally unsuitable and also to admit that there has been in the past an element of preciosity in the attitude of some singers and some listeners. The songs, or the best of them, are too good to lose; and recording offers an opportunity for listeners to study them and enjoy them at leisure with an opportunity to repeat an unfamiliar song until it becomes familiar and with no obstacles to reading a translation of the text in parallel with the original in a well-lit room without disturbing anybody else. The D utch singer Elly Ameling has been particularly active in recording lieder of various kinds for Philips, usually in cooperation with that most experienced and adaptable accompanist, Dalton Baldwin. Their disc of Romantic Lieder (Philips 9500 350) is an appealing anthology which includes some well-known songs (Schum ann’s “ Devotion” and “The Nut Tree” , Hugo Wolf’s “ The G ardener” and Richard Strauss’s “ Serenade” , among them) b u t uses its period title to include the work of a few less familiar composers such as Max Reger, Robert Franz and Hans Pfitzner. Schubert, Mahler, Brahms and Carl Loewe are also represented on a disc offering an outstanding recording of songs which have clearly been chosen for their intrinsic appeal and which would be an unintim idating introduction to a whole genre of music at the same time as it is likely to be welcomed by a person with a well-stocked record library. The recording is outstandingly good. Elly Ameling has a cool purity of style which wears well and avoids the kind of coyness and fussiness which have become drawbacks of overdiligent lieder performance. The songs are all in German but there is a well printed leaflet with parallel translations enclosed in the sleeve.


John McCallum

Sixteen new Australasian plays Lorna Bol, Treadmill (Playlab Press) Two Queensland One Act Plays For Festivals (Playlab Press) Helen Haenke, The Bottom o f a Birdcage (Playlab Press) Simon Denver and lan Dorricott, Man o f Steel (Playlab Press) Jill Shearer, Catherine (Edward Arnold) Bill Reed, Cass Butcher Bunting (Edward Arnold) Biala (Prahran CAE) Karel Florsheim, Babel (the author) Bruce Mason, The Pohutukawa Tree (NZUP Price Milburn) Bruce Mason, The End o f the Golden Weather (NZUP-Price Milburn) Brian McNeill The Two Tigers (Price Milburn) Roger Hall Glide Time (Price Milburn, VUP, Currency Press)

Bruce Mason's The Pohutukawa Tree

W hen sixteen new plays from Australia and New Zealand come up for review in one month, then either the scene is very lively indeed, or the mud at the bottom of the pond has been stirred too deeply by enthusiastic publishers. It is a pity that so many of these plays are mud. W hat we have here mostly is interesting new publishers, not interesting new plays. Playlab Press is a branch of the Queensland Playwrights’ Laboratory, and has just published its first four volumes, under the editorship of Rodney H Lumer. Queensland for years seems to have had more playwrights per head of population than any other state, but they have had little im pact south of the border. Lorna Bol’s Treadmill had a production in Sydney recently but in general plays from

Queensland don’t seem to travel well. Treadmill, actually, is set in New South Wales — a rather heavy-handed small town dram a which achieves some power through the vivid evocation of a fishing/ resort town with the usual complement of madness and passion. As is typical of this sort of play all the action takes place offstage, but the births, marriages and deaths attendant on the plot are announ­ ced by breathless women who show a surprise at their pieces of news not shared by the audience or reader. Two One-Act Plays For Festivals (Ron H amilton’s Vacancy and Paul Collings’ Churchyard) give an alarming insight into Queensland play festivals. They are both very heavy and rather obscure in intention — passions run deep in the Sunshine State. Helen H aenke’s The Bottom o f a Birdcage is an odd play redeemed by a marvellous sense of place. It is set in an old warehouse, down by a river, hovering on the brink of a Dantesque pit. The play is called an “ anti-thriller” apparently because you never find out what it’s all about. The characters are all very un­ pleasant, but there’s only one murder. Finally, from Playlab, and most success­ fully, is Man o f Steel, by Simon Denver and Ian Dorricott — a “ musical spoof” for schools all about Superman. It has a cast of thousands and a million awful old jokes such as are loved by schoolkids and, indeed, this reviewer. It has boundless energy and I hope a school near me does it soon. Edward Arnold has started a series called “ Monash New Plays” , edited by Mary Lord. Jill Shearer’s Catherine is about a convict who becomes the mistress of D ’Arcy Wentworth on the ship out, and gives birth to the first WC (Wentworth). This p art of the action is continually interrupted as the “ actors” stop to discuss the psychological motivation of the charac­ ters in a rather contrived “ rehearsal” . The play is an attem pt to have an historical romance as well as a bit of psychological and sociological comment without having to mix it together. Bill Reed’s Cass Butcher Bunting is about dying, according to the author. In it three men sit trapped in a collapsed mineshaft, saying and doing various incomprehensible and nasty things. It is very static and intense — nothing happens, most of the time you can hardly see the characters, there is no humour, no meaning but a lot of metaphysical obscenity. Doubtless edify­ ing for audiences prepared to meet the “ unremitting dem ands” the play makes. B IA LA is a journal of creative writing published by the Prahran College of Advanced Education. Volume 2, 1977, contains a puff for the Australian Stage Company by Wal Cherry and two plays: Michael Cove’s The Gift and Bob H erbert’s Man o f Respect. The Gift

received attention in Sydney and Melbourne last year for its lively begin­ ning, but without the delights of that production it is hard to see why the play was written. M artin, the suffering artist with nothing to say, could very well have written the play himself. The ending is a complete cop-out.(“ I am no prophet come to tell you a l l . . . ” ). Man o f Respect is an Electra with modern Sicilian Australians, the mafia providing the blood. As with many other modern retellings of Greek stories the action is determined not by fate but by driving passions explained psycho­ logically. Electra naturally loves her dad. Babel contains three plays by Karel Florsheim, and is published by the author. It seems unlikely that they will ever be produced, except perhaps the third play, Distances. The first, Requiem For Religion, calls for a revolve with three concentric sections which rise to form a giant cone shaped mountain, the whole of which takes off like a rocket ship at the end of the play. M r Florsheim has some talent but his hum our is coy and aggravating and his demands on prod­ ucers prohibitive. It is with relidf that one turns to four volumes of New Zealand plays, published by Price Milburn and distributed in this country by Currency Press. Bruce M ason’s The Pohutukawa Tree was first produced there in 1957 and has since become a classic of New Zealand drama. Its subject is as old as the hills and as impressive. The dignity of the old Maori queen Aroha and her refusal to bow to the Western influences that have subjugated the rest of her people are very uplifting. The same author’s The E nd o f the Golden Weather is a prose narrative about his childhood which he has performed over five hundred times as a dramatic monologue. The writing is a little rich in parts, but the central image — that summer is not just a season but a state of mind — is powerful and the piece richly evokes a childhood in a small New Zealand coastal town. The Two Tigers of Brian McNeill’s play are Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murray. The story of their love and separation is told skilfully, energetic­ ally and with great feeling. The Europe at the beginning of this century which attracted so many Australians and New Zealanders is still food for fantasy for us all. Roger Hall’s Glide Time is a clever and very funny bureaucratic comedy about life in the Public Service. It is full of topical New Zealand jokes but could do as well here as it has apparently done there, where it has been “ one of the most exciting phenomena in New Zealand theatre history” . If we continue to import plays from overseas we could do worse than import some of these four. New Zealand is not so far away. THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978



A .C .T . CANBERRA THEATRE (49-7600) Dance Company of New South Wales Poppy. Sep 3-16. CANBERRA THEATRE FOYER 149-7600) Fortune Theatre Company The Centenarian by Philip Ryall. Sep 11-15. Nathan and Tabileth by Barry Bermange. Sep 18-22. Heads and The Education o f Skinny Spew by Howard Brenton. Director, Pam Rosenberg. Sep 25 - 29. CHILDERS STREET HALL Canberra Children’s Theatre (47-0781 ) Winnie the Pooh adapted by the company from the books by A A Milne. Director, Carol Woodrow. Sep 1, 2, 4 - 9. AUSTRALIAN THEATRE WORKSHOP/ STAGE (48-5346) The Sunny South by George Darrell. Director, Warwick Baxter. Sep 4 - 7, 11 -14. PLAYHOUSE (49-7600) Flextime by Roger Hall. Director, John Tasker. Sep 28 - Oct 21. THEATRE 3 (47-4222) Canberra Repertory Society Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourne. Director, Michael Lanchbery; Design, Russell Brown. Sep 6 - 23, Wednesday to Saturday. TIVOLI THEATRE RESTAURANT (49-1411) Vaudeville Capers. Fridays and Saturdays (continuing). For entries contact Marguerite Wells on 41-3192.

N EW SO U TH W A LE S ACTORS COMPANY (660 2503) The Removalists by David Williamson, directed by Michael Rolfe, in repertoire with Halloran's Little Boat, by Thomas Keneally, directed by Steve Agnew (to Sep 23). An Evening with Adolf Hitler, by Jenifer Compton and Matthew O’Sullivan, directed by Matthew O’Sullivan (from Sep 29). ARTS COUNCIL OF NEW SOUTH WALES (31-6611) Schools Tours: Bennelong Players West metropolitan area from Sep 11. Jan Carter, guitarist. Metropolitan area from Sep 18. Dale Woodward Rod Puppet Workshop North coast area from Sep 11. Wayne Roland Brown, multi-instrumentalist. North-west and Hunter areas from Sep 18. Dance Concert Riverina area from Sep 18. A lex Hood, folk-singer, guitarist. South Coast from Sep 18. Bob Sillman, magician, ventriloquist, puppeteer. Western New South Wales area from Sep 18). AUSTRALIAN THEATRE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE (699-9322) Window Workshops — Friday nights, Parade 50


Theatre from 6 pm to 9 pm. Saturday Morning Workshops — National Institute of Dramatic Art, from 10 am to 1 pm (Age limit 12 to 22) AUSTRALIAN OPERA (20588) Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House: La Traviata (Puccini), Mastersingers o f Nuremburg (Wagner), La Boheme (Puccini). ENSEMBLE THEATRE (929-8877) Lamb o f God, by John Summons, directed by Hayes Gordon (throughout Sep) FRANK STRAIN’S BULL ’N BUSH THEATRE RESTAURANT (31-4627) Magic o f Yesterday with Noel Brophy, Keith Bowell, Julie Fullerton, Neil Bryant, and Alan Norman, directed by Frank Strain, choreographed by George Carden, (continuing). GENESIAN THEATRE (827-3023) The Aspen Papers, by Henry James, directed by Ray Ainsworth (throughout Sep). HER MAJESTY’S THEATRE (212-3411) Dracula, directed by Sir Robert Helpmann, starring John Waters (continuing). KIRK GALLERY (698-1798) Lovers, by Brian Friel, with Margaret Roberts, Geoff Usher, Andrea Kelland, Greg O’Connor, Jean Hadgraft and Ann Haden. Presented by Five Sided Theatre, (to Sep 17). MARIAN STREET (498 3166) Catch Me I f You Can, adapted from the French by Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, directed by Robert Levis. To Sep 9. The Waltz o f the Toreadors, by Jean Anouilh, directed by Brian Young. From Sep 15. MARIONETTE THEATRE OF AUSTRALIA (357-1200) Music Room, Sydney Opera House: The Magic Tinder Box and St George and the Dragon, with a special appearance of Bill Steamshovel, performed by the Norman Hetherington Puppets. To Sep 9. MUSIC HALL THEATRE RESTAURANT (909-8222) Crushed by Desire, written and directed by Michael Boddy (continuing). MUSIC LOFT THEATRE (977-6585) Encore, a musical revue starring the Toppano family and Lee Young (continuing). NEW THEATRE (519-3403) Enemies, by Maxim Gorki, directed by Kevin Jackson (throughout Sep). NIMROD THEATRE (699-5003) Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, adapted for the stage, directed and designed by Steven Berkoff, costume designer Sylvia Jansons, music by Nicholas Lyon, with Ralph Cotterill, Richard Collins, Margaret Cameron, Janice Finn, and George Shevstov. To Oct 8. OLD TOTE (663-6122) Drama Theatre: Hay Fever, by Noel Coward, directed by Ted Craig, with Patricia Kennedy, David Nettheim, Jan Hamilton, John Warnock, Ronald Falk, Suzanne Roylance. Barry Otto, Judy Nunn and Connie Hobbs. To Sep 5. The Night o f the Iguana, by Tennessee

Williams, directed by Ted Craig, with Ronald Falk, Judi Farr, Maggie Kirkpatrick, Max Phipps, Lynne Murphy and Lorna Lesley, designed by James Ridewood. Parade Theatre: The Knack (or How to Get It), by Anne Jellicoe, directed by Peter Coliingwood, with Grant Dodwell, Robert Hughes, Geoff Kelso and Celia de Burgh. To Sep 12. ORANGE CIVIC THEATRE (62-1555) Canberra Children’s Theatre: Winnie The Pooh adapted by the company from the books by A A Milne. Director, Carol Woodrow. Sep 15 - 16. PARIS THEATRE (61-9193) Visions by Louis Nowra, directed by Rex Cramphorn, with Kate Fitzpatrick and John Gaden. Q THEATRE, Penrith (047 21 -5735) Entertaining Mr Sloane, by Joe Orton, directed by Richard Brooks. Penrith, Sep 13 - Oct 1. SEYMOUR CENTRE (692-0555) York TMfeatre: Crown Matrimonial, written by Royce Ryton, directed by Peter Williams, with June Salter as Queen Mary and John Hamblin as Edward VIII. To Sep 9. King Lear by William Shakespeare, starring The Queensland Theatre Company, with special guest artist, Warren Mitchell. From Sep 13. Downstairs Theatre: Palach, by Alan Burns and Charles Marowitz, directed by Mark Radvan, with the City Road Youth Theatre. Four performances on Sep 8 & 9. The Theatrical Illusion, by Pierre Corneille, directed by Rex Cramphorn, with the Sydney University Theatre Workshop and French Department. From Sep 21. SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE (20588) Exhibition Hall: La Scala Bi Centenary Exhibition. Throughout Sep. THEATRE ROYAL (231-6111) The Club by David Williamson, with Ron Haddrick, Jeff Ashby, Ron Graham, Barry Lovett, Drew Forsythe, Ivor Kants. From Sep 6 -30. WHITE HORSE HOTEL, Newtown (51-1302) Brenda, devised and directed by Ian Tasker, written by Peter Stephens. Throughout Aug. For entries contact Candy Baker on 357-1200.

Q U EEN SLA N D BRISBANE ARTS THEATRE (36-2344) Murder on the Nile by Agatha Christie; directed by Jason Savage. To Sep 9. Butley by Simon Gray; directed by Ian Thomson. From Sep 14. Children’s Theatre: Kedar the Kangaroo Boy written and directed by Eugene Hickey. From Sep 2. CAMERATA (36-6561) At University of Queensland by the lake. Cedipus at Colonus by Sophocles, directed by Donald Batchelor.

LA BOITE (36-1622) Tales from the Vienna Woods by Odon von Horvath; directed by Rod Wissler. To Sep 16. King Richard by Steve J Spears; directed by Sean Mee. Opens Sep 22. POPULAR THEATRE TROUPE (36-1745) Community project in Brisbane, culminating in a Giant Community Game for Warana and Qld Festival of the Arts in King George Square. Sep 30. Films and shows at 60 Waterworks Road, Red Hill. Sep 3 & 10. General programme in schools, clubs, meatworks etc. QUEENSLAND ARTS COUNCIL (221 5900) While the Billy Boils with Leonard Teale on tour. Hans Richter Haaser Recital, Brisbane City Hall Sep 20 and Townsville Civic Theatre Sep 21. Romola Costantino on tour. Sleuth by Tony Shaffer; produced by Queensland Theatre Co; directed by Terry Clarke. On tour. Queensland Ballet 4 one-act ballets, on tour. QUEENSLAND FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS (229-3805) Sep 17 - Oct 8. QUEENSLAND THEATRE COMPANY (221-5177) Big Toys by Patrick White; directed by Bill Redmond; designed by Peter Cooke; with John Krummell, Douglas Hedge and Kate Shiel. To Sep 2. The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov; directed by Joe MacColum; designed by Fiona Reilly; with John Krummell. From Sep 20. ST JOHN’S CATHEDRAL The Ancient Mariner scripted and directed by Peter Jordan; music by Prue Gibbs. From Sep 28. TWELFTH NIGHT (52-5888) Dry Run by John Murray; directed by Bill Redmond; designed by Mike Bridges. From Sep 21.

For entries contact Don Batchelor on 269-3018.

S O U T H A U S T R A L IA GLOBE THEATRE (223-8610) Box Factory: plays by Arrabal. Sep 13 -23. With 3B Productions: The Bionic Cook Book Show, a cabaret. Touring Sep, Oct, Nov. Q THEATRE (223-5651) With the Company Players; Butterflies Are Free by Leonard Gershe. Directed by Beverly Stobie. Sep 9 - Oct 7. STATE OPERA (51-6161) La Rondine by Puccini (in English). To Sep 2. STATE THEATRE OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA (51-5151) Playhouse: Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen, directed by Colin George. To Sep 2. A Manual o f Trench Warfare by Clem Gorman, directed by Colin George. Sep 8 - 23. Servant o f Two Masters by Goldoni. From Sep 29. TROUPE Balcony Theatre; A Stretch o f the Imagination by Jack Hibberd, directed by David Allen with Keith Gallasch. Sep 8 - 24. Red Shed: Roses In Due Season by Doreen Clarke, directed by David Allen. From Sep 28. For entries contact Chris Johns on 223-8610.

T A S M A N IA SALAMANCA THEATRE COMPANY (23-5259) (Tasmanian theatre in education) Touring in USA until November 24. TASMANIAN PUPPET THEATRE (23-7996) 'Touring: Momma's Little Horror Show, Golden Nugget Show, North Wind and the Sun, Big Nose, Magic Brush. The Space, Adelaide to Sep 9; Last Laugh Theatre Restaurant, Melbourne Sep 14 - Oct 27. THEATRE ROYAL (34-6266) Children’s Programme: Five Funny Folk Tales Sep 4-8. A Hatful o f Sykes with Eric Sykes and Hattie Jacques Sep 13 -23. For entries contact the editorial office on (049)67-4470.

V IC T O R IA ALEXANDER THEATRE (543-2828) Patience, Babirra Players. Sep 14 - 23. ARENA CHILDREN’S THEATRE (24-9667) Plays-in-Performance: lower primary, Storytheatre primary, Legends Alive (touring metropolitan and country schools). CAT-CALL: Tutorship scheme for schools (pupils & staff) BOW-TIE: Theatre-in-education program — 1. Whizzy the Wizard, prep to grade 2 2. Crewfour fruit cake, grades 2-6 3. Truck-a-luck, grades 5-6 4. Shake, Rattle and Roll, ages 10-14. SCAT: Suitcase Activity Theatre (one actor/teacher drama experiences) Saturday Matinees, every Sat. For all ages: MaJ'elo. AUSTRALIAN PERFORMING GROUP (PRAM FACTORY) (347-7133) Front Theatre: Foolshoe Hotel by Barry Dickens. Aug 15 - Sep 17. Dreamers o f the Absolute by Phil Motherwell., Directed by Richard Murphet, Sep 27 - Oct 29. Back Theatre: The Bitter Tears o f Petra Von Kant, Aug 8 - Sep 3. Season o f Women's Films, Sep 19 -24. Voices by Susan Griffin. Sep 25 - Oct 15. (Comedy) FESTIVAL THEATRE (88-4626) Camberwell Civic Theatre. Applause by Camden and Green. Music by Strause & Adams; director, Peter Tulloch; starring Val Lehmann. Sep 8 - 16, 8.15 pm. FLYING TRAPEZE CAFE (41-3727) To be announced. FOIBLES Theatre Restaurant (347-2397) Original comedy entertainment directed by Rod Quantock; with Mary Kenneally, Steve Vizard, and Tony Rickards. HOOPLA THEATRE FOUNDATION (63-7643) Playbox Theatre: Freaks by Gordon Graham; director, Michael Morris. HER MAJESTY’S THEATRE Julie Anthony: Her own show. Sep 14 - 16. Isn't It Pathetic A t His Age? Barry Humphries. From Sep 17. COMEDY THEATRE (663 1822) Isn't It Pathetic A t His Age? Barry Humphries. To Sep 16. The Masters Dennis Olsen and June Bronhill. From Sep 17.

LAST LAUGH THEATRE RESTAURANT (419-6226) Makin' Wicky Wacky, a night of hot harmonies and humour. Director, John O’Mary; choreographer, Karen Johnson; with The Crackers. LA MAMA (350-4593 / 347-6085) A series of weekend events produced by: Lyndal Jones, Arthur and Connie Cantrill, Ken Gunter and friends, James Clayden and friends, Chris Freeman. Thursdays - Sundays at 8.30 pm. For details see Melbourne Times weekly. MELBOURNE THEATRE COMPANY (654-4000) Russell Street Theatre: Tributary production of Greg Colubriale’s Johnny Castillino (Dates to be announced). Just Between Ourselves by Alan Ayckbourn; director, Mick Rodger; designer, Kim Carpenter; with Lynette Curran, John Bowman, Dennis Olsen and Mary Ward. To Sep 9. Gone with Hardy by David Allen. From Sep 21. Atheneum Theatre: The Playboy o f the Western World by J M Synge; director, Ray Lawler; designer, Tony Tripp; with Edwin Hodgeman and Katy Wild, and company. To Sep 2. Under Milkwood by Dylan Thomas; director, Mick Rodger. From Sep 7. Also, Saturday Morning Club, and Curtain-Up. PALAIS THEATRE (94-0655) Australian Ballet: Mamselle Angot, The Farm, New Murphy Work. Sep 13 - 19. La Fille Mai Gardu. Sep 21 - 27. PILGRIM PUPPET THEATRE (818-6650) The Tale o f Mr Tod by Beatrix Potter; director, June Epstein. POLYGLOT PUPPETS (8181512) Multi-cultural puppet theatre, with Mogg the Cat, and Friends. Touring schools and community centres. PRINCESS THEATRE (662-2911) Australian Dance Theatre to Sep 2. TIKKI AND JOHN’S Theatre Lounge (663-1754) Olde Time Music Hall with Tikki and John Newman, Myrtle Roberts and Vic Gordon. VICTORIAN STATE OPERA (41 5061) Contemporary Music Theatre Season, Playbox Theatre, Sep 7,8, 11, 13, 15, 16. Three new works by Australian composers and writers: Eliza Frazer Sings — music by Peter Sculthorpe, text by Barbara Blackman. The Apology o f Bony Anderson — music by Barry Conyngham, text by Murray Copland. Sin — an Immoral Fable in Seven Deadly Acts and Entr’actes — music by Martin Friedl, text by Jack Hibberd. Lyndon Terracini, Jan Friedl, Pauline Ashleigh, Ian Cousins, Halina Nieckarz, Graeme Wall. Conducted by Richard Divall. Producers, Jan Stripling and Paul Hampton; designer, Henry Smith. Schools' program touring: Sid the Serpent Who Wanted to Sing by Malcom Fox; director, Gary Deakes; choreographer, Betty Pounder; with Ian Crow, Robyn Arthur, Toni Adelmahn, and Evan Zachariah. M a jo r A m a te u r C o m p a n ie s : Please contact these theatres in the evenings for details of current productions. HEIDELBERG REPERTORY (49 2262) MALVERN THEATRE COMPANY ( 211- 0020) PUMPKIN THEATRE, Richmond (42-8237) 1812 THEATRE, Ferntree Gully (796-8624) For entries contact Les Cartwright on 781-1777. THEATRE AUSTRALIA SEPTEMBER 1978


W E S T E R N A U S T R A L IA CIVIC THEATRE RESTAURANT (272-1595) Laughter Unlimited. Directed by Brian Smith. HOLE IN THE WALL (381-2403) Between the Lines — a play about Henry Lawson. Directed by John Milson; with Alexander Hay. Sep 6 - 30.

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NATIONAL THEATRE (325-3500) Playhouse: Patience by Gilbert and Sullivan. Directed by John Milson. Aug 24 - Sep 2. Richard II by Shakespeare. Directed by Stephen Barry. Sep 12 - Oct 14. Greenroom: Keep On Trucking Francesca by Christine Randall. Directed by Stephen Barry. REGAL THEATRE (381-1557) Dick Whittington and His Cat. Directed by Kenny Cantor. To Sep 8.


WA BALLET COMPANY Short country tour during Sep.

T H E S P I A ’S P R I Z E C R O S S W O R D N o. 3

WA OPERA COMPANY (322-4766) Short country tour during Sep. For entries contact Joan Ambrose on 299 6639.

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RIVERINA TRUCKING COMPANY (069 25-2052) The Club by David Williamson (by arrangement with Nimrod Theatre) directed and designed by Terry O’Connell. Cast includes Bob Baines, John Francis, Ken Moffat, Toby Prentice and Les Winspear plus late night performances of Broad Horizons by Terry O’Connell & Ken Moffat. Sep 14 - Oct 1.


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Across: I. Dear Elf, muddled, favours central government (7) 5. Cads and bounders sounding putrid (7) 9. “I will”? Sounds like the place where you say it (5) 10. Mountains you could have a meal on (5, 4) II. Effect hard to achieve with clue 13 (6) 12. Play is on film but in Hell (2, 6) 14. What you are right now (4, 6) 15. Teutonic god is Vienna woodsman, we hear (4) 18. Test to stay as it is (4) 19. Ex king of France, currently a sun god writes plays here! (5, 5) 22. Sea lords and butterflies (8) 24. A challenge for 14 (6) 26. “.... 1 heard a voice cried sleep no more” (Macbeth) (9) 27. “Hither with crystal ..., lovers come” (John Donne) (5) 28. One with the stickiest beak? (7) 29. Ball set changed for dance dramas (7) Down: 1. Female raced with twitch and became mad (7) 2. Ted’s ute — it is down and out (9) 3. Superlative quality in pan pipes, but not in voice (8) 4. A rift in this is the beginning of the end (4) 5. Parisian lady or toting Cleopatra? (5, 5) 6. Panter to drill holes in heads (6) 7. Cut between two points and run away (5) 8. In spot to receive injuries (7) 13. Deluge with radiance as a theatrical aid (10) 16. Where asides are best delivered from? (9) 17. Pause for refreshment and relief (8) 18. Dollars harm a concealed director (7) 20. Grabs one, like a good performance (7) 21. Elvis was this type of king (6) 23. Meets and gives out justice (5) 25. Bats return to strike a vicious blow (4) The first correct entry drawn on August 25th will receive one year’s subscription to TA.

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Last month’s answers.

Theatre Australia 3(2) September 1978  
Theatre Australia 3(2) September 1978