Travelling North

by David Williamson

Directed by Jim Williams

November 1986

A moving homage to age and the old radicals who changed the course of our history. Soon after Frank and Frances desert their former lives for a northerly bohemian retreat, Frank’s mortality asserts itself.

This David Williamson play, premiered in 1979, the year that Williamson moved from Melbourne to Sydney. Williamson says the inspiration for the play came soon after he met his second wife Kristin and she took him up to the Central Coast of New South Wales to visit her mother Hope. Hope had recently remarried an older man called Wilkie.

Williamson: “There was more than a little hint of disapproval from her two daughters about the new liaison, which I used in the play, but I found them an inspiring couple. Wilkie was a ferociously intelligent man, a former electrical engineer and ex-communist with pronounced opinions on just about everything. Hope was gentler but with a wonderful quality of perception and understanding. They both impressed me and, some years later, the image of them both living in a verdant, sunlit subtropical paradise re-entered my mind and became Travelling North. In fact, by the time I wrote it, Wilkie had died. I asked Hope whether I could write the play and she trusted me and was most cooperative. She told me anecdotes about a busybody neighbour who had annoyed the hell out of Wilkie and a long-suffering doctor who had to answer Wilkie’s probing questions about the quality of treatment he was delivering. These characters found their way into the story. I think Hope genuinely liked the play, but my wife Kristin and her sister were a little less enthusiastic, particularly when Frank, in the play, refers to them as “Goneril and Regan””.

“This play was not to do with me, and there was no ‘me’ character in it,” he later said. “It was a dispassionate – hopefully – observation of a journey we all must make. I tried to make it as truthful, emotionally, as I could.”

From Earth to Heaven

Dark Out There

by Bec Robinson

Directed by Richard Everingham

The Education of Meg

by Joan Hornby

Directed by Jim Rose

Four Queens Wait for Henry

by L Du Garde Peach

Directed by Barbara Hosie

July 1986

Inherit The Wind

by Jerome Lawrence

April 1986

Inherit the Wind is a fictionalized account of the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial, which resulted in John T. Scopes’ conviction for teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution to a high school science class, contrary to a Tennesse estate law. The role of Matthew Harrison Brady is intended to reflect the personality and beliefs of William Jennings Bryan, while that of Henry Drummond is intended to be similar to that of Clarence Darrow. Bryan and Darrow, formerly close friends, opposed one another at the Scopes trial. The character of E. K. Hornbeck is modelled on that of H. L. Mencken, who covered the trial for The Baltimore Sun, and the character of Bertram Cates corresponds to Scopes. However, the playwrights state in a note at the opening of the play that it is not meant to be a historical account, and there are numerous instances where events were substantially altered or invented. For instance, the characters of the preacher and his daughter were fictional, the townspeople were not hostile towards those who had come to Dayton for the trial, and Bryan offered to pay Scopes’ fine if he was convicted. Bryan did die shortly after the trial, but it happened five days later in his sleep.  Political commentator Steve Benen said of the play’s inaccuracies: “Scopes issued no plea for empathy, there was no fiancee and the real Scopes was never arrested. In fact, the popular film that was nominated for four Academy Awards and has helped shape the American understanding of the ‘Scopes Monkey Trial’ for decades is an inadequate reflection of history.” Lawrence explained in a 1996 interview that the drama’s purpose was to criticize the then-current state of McCarthyism. The play was also intended to defend intellectual freedom. According to Lawrence, “we used the teaching of evolution as a parable, a metaphor for any kind of mind control […] It’s not about science versus religion. It’s about the right to think.”


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