Plays of the 70s: Volume 1


The bicentennial celebrations in 1970 of the arrival of Captain James Cook aroused a new interest in Australia's history and culture. The plays in this volume were landmarks in the development of a rough new all-Australian theatre which celebrated the rude colour of Australian language and mores.

It was a period of comedy and satire, but these plays show that beneath the larrikinism, sharp social criticism was at work. Ordinary people were becoming alienated and exploited, living largely unexamined lives.

The plays in this volume are:

The Legend of King O'Malley
by Michael Boddy & Bob Ellis

A landmark play when it was first produced in 1970, The Legend of King O'Malley draws on vaudeville traditions to create a larrikin form from which the Australian New Wave theatre took its direction. The underlying story is based on a real life Texan idealist who became a member of two Australian parliaments and was defeated in 1917 for opposing conscription.

The play begins with a prairie revival meeting and takes a journey of adventure and hardship, culminating in a satirical view of federal parliament as a bunch of clowns. Beyond the irreverence, Australian myths can be glimpsed in the portrait of the lonely outsider and farseeing idealist in conflict with conservative pragmatists.

The Joss Adams Show
by Alma De Groen

One of the first new wave plays to raise female consciousness in a movement which was almost entirely male-dominated.

Joss gives a unique insight into the state of mind of a woman with post-natal depression. A savagely comic play whose strength lies in the tension between the comic inappropriateness of the social behaviour and the 'reality' in the mind of the audience—in this case the death of a baby.

Mrs Thally F
by John Romeril

A long one-act play based on a real-life murderer, devised for the Australian Performing Group's Portable Theatre Company.

A Stretch of the Imagination
by Jack Hibberd

Monk O'Neill, the lonely misanthropist has become an archetype of the Australian character since he first appeared on our stages in 1971.

Also published in Jack Hibberd: Selected Plays

The Removalists
by David Williamson

A young policeman's first day on duty becomes a violent and highly charged initiation into law enforcement. Remarkable for its blend of boisterous humour and horrifying violence, the play has acquired a reputation as a classic statement on Australian authoritarianism and is a key work in the study of Australian drama.

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