When Prince Hamlet cried ‘The play’s the thing’, he was about to use a performance of The Mousetrap to demonstrate a point central to his purpose: he intended to ‘catch the conscience of the king’. Nearly 400 years later, British playwright David Hare endorsed and expanded Hamlet’s utilitarian approach, writing: ‘Indeed, if you want to understand the social history of Britain since the war, then your time will be better spent studying the plays of the period … than by looking at any comparable documentary source.’
The subtitle of this book, ‘The Revolution in the Australian Theatre since the 1960s’, is the clue to its subject and its thesis. If it is plain that Australian theatre and, in particular, Australian drama, is now an established fact, a splendid feature of the cultural landscape, this is only a recent growth.
The author has been peculiarly placed to watch this growth, to assist it and even to inspire it. Since 1974, as theatre critic for the Melbourne Age, he has seen and reviewed more than 2000 productions, more than 1000 of them plays by Australian writers.