Theatre Production

The other week we saw a terrific theatre production of

Summer of the Seventeenth Doll

at the Belvoir Theatre in Sydney. This Australian play was first produced in November 1955 in Melbourne and made its way from Australia to London and New York under the direction of John Sumner. The play was written by Ray Lawler and was very successful over the years.It was also made into a movie.

The play is set in 1953 in Melbourne. One gets reminded what life was like in Australia in the 1950s. I think it shows especially what women’s life was like in those days. Women should never appear to be too easy going. This was what was expected of them. Unless a woman could get married, she really had no security at all.

The two women in the play had their men only for the five summer months during wich time they aimed at enjoying themselves to the utmost. The rest of the year their men worked as cane-cutters in Queensland. That went on for seventeen years. They never married. Then in the seventeenth year one of the women had just gone off to marry someone else.

So a new woman, a widow in her fortieth, comes into the game. They want to see whether she fits in so they can keep on playing the game of being absolutely happy during the summer months. Somehow it doesn’t work out because the people involved haven’t learned to take on responsibility. They just do not want to grow up. Maybe they think they can  enjoy themselves like that for ever and ever. They never seem to want to grow older. The five months spent together have just become a habit. They are under the delusion that this makes them happy.

Stressful situations like this still exist if partners have to work in different occupations in different countries for part of the year. So I think the play has still relevance today!

We were lucky enough to be at a debriefing last Sunday with the playwright Ray Lawler. He is in his nineties now and a dear old gentleman. He told us much about his life. He started work in a factory at age fourteen. He did the factory work for eleven years. When he started writing, he went to the Melbourne Public Library which opened at 10 in the morning and closed at 10 o’clock at night. It was quiet there, in winter warm and cool enough in summer. He counted himself to be very fortunate that he was able to write in a place like that.

For the said production Belvoir Theatre Company cut a window into the outside wall of the theatre  so that proper lighting could fall onto the stage through this window. That gave the audience the illusion that it was outside either daytime or night-time.

In the photo the two lamps are covered. The lamps are being used for lighting effects durings evening performances.

10 thoughts on “Theatre Production

  1. We always think of playwrights as being people who are so far removed from us – unreachable almost – and it must have been wonderful to get to meet Ray Lawler and to get to speak to him about his work. It’s wonderful!!

    1. Yes, Ray is a dear old man and the audience appreciated it very much that he made the effort to come all the way from Melbourne to Sydney for the talks. Ray lives in Melbourne and is very fond of his grandchildren.

  2. ‘Women should never appear to be too easy going. This was what was expected of them. Unless a woman could get married, she really had no security at all.’
    This is still very relevant in many places, esp Pakistan, where women’s rights are trampled upon left and right and have to rely (generally) on male family members for protection.
    Seems like an interesting play 🙂 And how cool that you got to meet the playwright!
    I recently attended a play myself and was struck anew by how much effort goes into a theatre production. Kudos to theatre people all over the world for the entertainment they bring to their audiences, making them think too in the process. It is such a lively art form!
    Now if only the tickets weren’t always so expensive.

    1. We just sent off a subscription for six more plays to see in 2012. Our daughter (the youngest one) subscribed to the same plays and more. She’s studying theatre production. At the beginning of this year she was in a play called ‘Women of Troy’, a play by Euripides. She played the queen of Troy. As a 32 year old university student she was the oldest in the play because all the other women were younger students. The women had to wail a lot after the terrible destruction of Troy, when they lost everything.
      Thanks for visiting, Munira!

  3. What a fascinating play and how insightful to see the refusal to grow up and mature and face adulthood. Universal themes, I would say. It made it doubly special to actually hear what the playwright had to say. I love opportunities like that. they really do the heart and soul good, don’t they? I forget in between time how very much i enjoy a live performance (whether it is a play, a symphony, ballet, opera, whatever). Something is so very special about live performances. Thanks for sharing it with us

    1. Thank you for visiting, Kate, and thank you for all the comments on my blogs. I hope you’ll get the opportunity to see many more live performances. For next week we have booked tickets for a concert here in Wollongong: Handel’s Messiah! This is a special treat for us.

  4. “Summer of the Seventeenth Doll” describes an period of time that is gone. The play has become an Australian classic. The women of Australia have changed and so has the cane cutting. When we arrived here in Australia we saw the end of that period and have lived through a tremendous change. Still it was good to see such a good production in our favourite theatre in Sydney.

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