Anyone with an interest in Australia’s drama history is likely to have some curiosity about Oriel Gray’s play The Torrents, joint winner of a Playwright Advisory Board prize in 1955 alongside Ray Lawler’s ground-breaking Summer of the Seventeenth Doll. Unlike Lawler’s play, it was not performed at the time. According to the current producers, it has had only one other professional production before this current version by Black Swan Theatre in Perth, which has reached Sydney after seasons in Perth and Brisbane.
The company is conscious of its role in rehabilitating a piece of drama history, with Gray’s name in pink neon lights in front of the curtain. Before the play begins, Celia Pacquola, in her familiar stand-up comedian role, fills in the background for the audience. While Gray’s play languished unperformed, Lawler’s play has been taught in schools and universities for decades, with some dynamic revivals and the addition of two more plays by Lawler to make it a trilogy.
Such a comparison hardly helps Gray’s play, which, even in 1955, must have been out of kilter with the Zeitgeist.