Australia in 50 Plays
Currency Press, $39.99 pb, 352 pp
For at least the first half of the twentieth century, Australian playwrights were not held in high regard by their compatriots. Popular opinion was summed up by fictional theatre manager M.J. Field in Frank A. Russell’s novel The Ashes of Achievement (1920):
‘I’ve got a play,’ commenced Philip, plunging.
Field jumped from his chair, hands spread out in defence.
‘Help!’ he yelped. ‘Anything but that. Not a bloody play, I ask you.’
‘What are you frightened of?’ he asked, when Field had resumed his seat.
‘I’ll tell you, Lee, on the understanding it goes no further. Australians can’t write plays; there you have it in a nutshell.’