A brilliant new study of how our national drama has shaped and mirrored Australia’s story and collective sense of itself since Federation has been launched to celebrate Currency Press’ 50th anniversary.
Julian Meyrick’s Australia in 50 Plays is a highly original and entertaining overview of the developing ways fifty outstanding plays have creatively explored the events, issues, zeitgeists and crises faced by Australians and the nation over the last 120 years.
From the breezy charm of Federation theatre, through the shadowy trauma underlying post-World War I bush plays, to the crackling irony of 1940s playwrights, Meyrick shows Australian drama to be a connected, wonderfully unified body of work.
He extends this approach to the great realist and poetic plays of the mid-twentieth century, the revolutionary hopefulness of 1970s New Wave theatre, and the darker mood of dramatists in the deindustrialisation and social dislocation of the 1980s.
Meyrick also explores the remarkable flowering of Indigenous drama, the changing role of women, on stage and off, and the new voices of the twenty-first century that have added immeasurably to the diversity of Australian stories, the ingenuity of our stage forms, and the deepening of the national imagination. He concludes with a dazzling analysis of the 2022 transgender hit Triple X.
“To study the plays of the nation is to study the nation,” says Julian Meyrick, theatre director, professor of creative arts at Griffith University and General Editor of Currency House’s New Platform Paper series.
“No other art form is so sensitive to the tips and eddies of everyday change, none so capable of giving it immediate, forceful expression. The life of the nation and the drama of the nation are like two planets circling the same historical events.”
“This is a love letter to Australian drama, and to the great democratic values on which our federated nation was founded – ones to which playwrights today hold us to account,” said Meyrick.
“A brilliant study of the complex ways in which drama reflects, analyses and shapes a nation’s experience and sense of itself. This is a highly original book, full of insight, generosity and understanding. It serves as a passionate tribute to the many creative artists who have made the Australian theatre what it is.” – John McCallum
Image: Australia in 50 Plays – courtesy of Currency Press