A story of love, heartache, hope and loss, Ray Lawler’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll remains one of the theatrical canon’s most moving explorations of the fading of youth and dreams. Crackling with earthy humour, the play evokes the sense of possibility and simple optimism in post-World War II Australia.
Set in 1950s working class Melbourne, every summer for sixteen years, cane cutters Barney and Roo have come back from Queensland to the inner suburb of Carlton to share their holidays with barmaids Nancy and Olive. However, this summer, things begin to change.
Nancy has married and Olive has lined up Pearl to take her place. Each one of the four must face questions about the kind of life they really want and whether, perhaps, there is something new and vital to be found by the breaking of old patterns.
Seething with passion, disappointment and heartbreak, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll is the ultimate ‘sex in the city’ saga, where not even love can protect those who refuse to see the realities of the changing world around them. With FIFO and DIDO now being a normal part of life for many Australian families, this play is more relevant to our audience than ever before.
Directed by Adam Mitchell, and featuring a stellar cast including Jacob Allan, Michael Cameron, Mackenzie Dunn, Vivienne Garrett, Amy Mathews, Kelton Pell and Alison van Reeken, this new Western Australian production of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll will mark its presentation by every state theatre company in the country.
Ray Lawler was thrust into prominence when his play, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, under John Sumner’s Direction, became a hit for the Union Theatre Repertory Company in 1955. Appearing in the role of Barney, Lawler, toured with the play through its successful seasons in Australia and the London West End, until it finally finished on Broadway in 1958. Lawler then lived abroad for the next seventeen years. At the request of John Sumner, he returned to Australia at the end of 1975 to take up the post of Literary Adviser and Associate Director with MTC.
Among other plays Lawler has written: The Piccadilly Bushman – which toured nationally under the J.C. Williamson banner, The Man Who Shot the Albatross, Godsend, The Unshaven Cheek and Cradle of Thunder – which won the 1949 Commonwealth Jubilee Play Competition. He has also written two works, Kid Stakes and Other Times, which are companion plays to Summer of the Seventeenth Doll – the three being published as The Doll Trilogy.
“(Lawler) has written a play so superbly true to Australian thought and the Australian scene…We know their faces, their voices – we share their dreams, we understand their failures.” – The Argus, on the world premiere in 1955 at the Union Theatre, Melbourne
Director: Adam Mitchell Featuring: Jacob Allan, Michael Cameron, Mackenzie Dunn, Vivienne Garrett, Amy Mathews, Kelton Pell, Alison van Reeken Set & Costume Designer: Bruce McKinven Lighting Designer: Trent Suidgeest Sound Designer/Composer: Ben Collins Fight Director: Andy Fraser
Summer of the Seventeenth Doll
Heath Ledger Theatre – State Theatre Centre of WA, William Street, Perth
Season: 9 – 20 May 2018 (previews: 5 – 8 May)
Information and Bookings: www.bsstc.com.au
Image: Amy Mathews as Olive and Kelton Pell as Roo – photo by Cameron Etchells