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Dramatic poetics

Considering the plays of Patrick White
by
January–February 2022, no. 439
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Patrick White’s Theatre: Australian modernism on stage, 1960–2018 by Denise Varney

Sydney University Press, $45 pb, 212 pp

Dramatic poetics

Considering the plays of Patrick White
by
January–February 2022, no. 439
S. Ostoja-Kotkowski’s set for the world première of The Ham Funeral by Patrick White, directed by John Tasker, November 1961. (photograph by Hedley Cullen, courtesy of the University of Adelaide Archive Collection)
S. Ostoja-Kotkowski’s set for the world première of The Ham Funeral by Patrick White, directed by John Tasker, November 1961. (photograph by Hedley Cullen, courtesy of the University of Adelaide Archive Collection)

Patrick White’s plays are conventionally assigned a marginal place in the landscape of his writing. Historically, they have either been regarded as poetic but unconvincing extensions of the performative dimensions of his prose, or as fundamentally misconceived exercises in contempt. Tim Winton spoke for the latter camp when, writing in the London Review of Books (22 June 1995), he dismissed White’s dramatic work as a ‘long and wasteful engagement with the theatre and its poisonous hangers-on’. Winton’s judgement is informed by a solitary model of authorship that can be applied to the rural metaphysics of White’s Castle Hill novels but that is increasingly inapplicable to the urbane satires his work became following his move to inner-Sydney in 1964.

Jonathan Dunk reviews 'Patrick White’s Theatre: Australian modernism on stage, 1960–2018' by Denise Varney

Patrick White’s Theatre: Australian modernism on stage, 1960–2018

by Denise Varney

Sydney University Press, $45 pb, 212 pp

Buy this book

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