Summer of the Seventeenth Doll
Summer of the Seventeenth Doll
Title: Summer of the Seventeenth Doll
Author: Lawler, Ray
Cast: 3M 4F
Target Audience: Adult
1955 Playwright's Advisory Board - Best Play
Every summer Roo and Barney have come down from their work in Queensland canefields to the Carlton house they share with Olive and Nancy for an annual celebration of love and laughter. But this year Nancy has deserted the house to get married, and Pearl has taken her place...
Ray Lawler's brany canecutters, and their long-standing seasonal romance with town Melbourne barmaids, are now part of Australian legend. Summer of the Seventeenth Doll is one of the pillars of our national theatre; with its premiere in 1955, it is said Australian playwriting came of age.
In this new edition it's clear The Doll still speaks to us today. Coming through in print and on stage as what it has been always - one of our works of literature most closely identified with the Australian character.
This is a new edition of the play to coincide with the 2011-12 season and the version used in the new VCE Curriculum
Length: full length. Cast: 3M, 3F. Audience age: adult
Reviewed by: Suzanne Mackay on aussietheatre.com.au
Presented by: Belvoir
Directed: Neil Armfield
Venue: Belvoir St Theatre Belvoir St Surry Hills Thursday 29 September, 2011
Summer of the Seventeenth DollRay Lawlers seminal Australian play, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll is much studied, but not oft performed because it is seen as traditional and as a result, outdated. In the program notes Ray Lawler discusses the cane cutting Australian archetype, and the fact that the myth of the bushman has all but disappeared. The play was groundbreaking in its day because of the Australian life being shown as real, with barmaids and pubs instead of nobility and parlors but this doesnt date the play, in fact it appeals even more now that in previous decades. The Doll is Australias Streetcar and this production does it perfect justice.
Ralph Myers set is picture perfect. The detail Lawler gives as to the setting is the first hurdle for anyone envisioning a production of this play but Myers manages to get the feel right without overdoing anything. The set gives the actors space to move, both literally and metaphorically, and they use this space beautifully. Neil Armfields direction sticks close to the traditional but manages to be fully infused with modern lightness and humor and honesty.
The beauty of this play is its iconically Australian and character driven so avoids the melodrama we often get mired in this wide brown land. The story revolves around just another year where two cane cutters fly down from Queensland for the lay off and spend time in the suburbs of Melbourne with their two, erm, girlfriends? Or partners? And here in such a traditional play we have a discussion about relationships that any modern womens magazine would be proud of. Olive is untraditional and the play opens with the excitement and anticipation surrounding the arrival of the men for the seventeenth year. The big difference is that Nancy has gone and Olive has decided to trial a replacement. Nancy is an interesting character in that she is unseen yet pervades the whole show. Her decision to leave and get married is perceived by Olive as a sign of weakness and a betrayal of trust and Pearls introduction into the group continues to test the foundations of the DIY moral code.
The performances are superb. From the first scene between Helen Thomsons Pearl and Yael Stones Bubba, the tension is strung tight and the moment Susie Porter steps on stage it escalates beautifully. It is tense and taut but also very, very funny. Steve Le Marquand (pictured, left) and Dan Wyllie as Roo and Barney respectively, hit each note with a perfect comedic note that makes the ensuing conflict all the more shocking. The introduction of TJ Power (pictured, right) as Jonnie Dowd injects youth and energy into the house and we begin watching Bubba yearn for, and chase, the ship that is sinking around them all. Susie Porter is stunning as her Olive sinks and by the end we see a damsel in distress that even Tennessee Williams would be proud to call his own. by Suzanne Mackay
Ray Lawler was thrust into prominence when his play Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, in which he appeared in the role of Barney, became a hit for the Union Theatre Repertory Company in 1955, and subsequently toured with enormous success throughout Australia and to London. The Piccadilly Bushman, written in 1959, toured nationally under the J.C. Williamson banner. Lawler's other plays include Kid Stakes and Other Times (completing The Doll Trilogy in 1975), The Man Who Shot the Albatross (1971) and Godsend (1982). Having lived abroad from 1957, Lawler returned in 1975 to serve as Literary Adviser to Melbourne Theatre Company and direct a number of productions for that company.
Nowadays he lives in a bayside Melbourne suburb.
Publication date: 30/09/2012
Publishing status: AU Dropshipping in stock