We would like to acknowledge the lands of Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, the
traditional custodians of the land on which Nimrod Theatre Company made its work.
The First Iteration
NIMROD 50 Collection – an extensive and exciting collection of previously unpublished, out of print or never published works celebrating 50 years since the founding of the Nimrod Theatre Company in 1970. We will be adding to the first group of plays published below in the future – and in all we hope to add or return nearly 50 works to the canon; some republished, some refurbished and some never before seen. These plays, by hugely significant writers, add to our rich and detailed understanding of ourselves and our theatrical inheritance.
The Nimrod Legacy
The influence of Nimrod looms large over Australian and especially Sydney theatre, even still. Luminaries from the company go on to found hugely significant endeavours, and the works from that time electrified audiences and spoke boldly, sometimes even crudely, in ‘our’ voice, an Australian voice – not the received pronunciation of a distant coloniser and its apparently staid theatrical institutions. It is easy to forget how radical this was, and how almost nothing of what we are now familiar with as the architecture of new writing and playwriting generally, existed.
There are some excellent studies (and the occasional autopsy) of the final days of Nimrod as the ambitious collectivism of the artistic group, perhaps inevitably, found its end. This Collection is not concerned with politics, power or personalities. This is (and indeed all our work at Australian Plays) about the playwrights – those central crafts-people working to drive the incredible output – especially of the early years of Nimrod. There was no formal training, no playwriting workshops or development structures – this was an industry making itself, consciously and unconsciously crafting an idea of what Australian theatre might be.
Whilst Nimrod is well known for its exciting international premieres or Australianised versions of classics, it is the bawdy, vaudeville-boxing-tent energy of Australia’s theatrical pioneers that drove its sprit – and ultimately that meant the creation of NEW work. Nimrod produced over 100 new Australian plays during its 18 years of existence across multiple venues. Of those, only approximately 50 were ever published and of those, only 20 remain in print. What was published – whilst undoubtedly more often than not the most exciting or impactful works – doesn’t represent the true breadth and boldness of Nimrod’s programming – the place of First Nations work, queer cabaret and female writers. This Collection aims to address the imbalance.
Though ground-breaking when they did happen, the few First Nations works, queer and artists speak to systemic issues still being dealt with by Australian theatre. And this shows in what was published, what was celebrated, what is remembered – an unconscious forgetting of the smaller or pricklier works, things that might not have been able to be published or for myriad reasons have fallen away – out-of-print or never-in-print.
Despite this, the fact that we have such an extraordinary archive of published plays at all is a testament to the tenacity and care of Currency Press, Yackandandah Press and others – who recognised the nascent new writing and to sought it out. We owe them a debt, not just on which we built this collection but in general for the effort and time invested over so many years in keeping the published works alive. Thank you.
It must also be noted that some of the works that seem to be Nimrod world premieres in fact had their first seasons at other exciting, impactful companies like La Mama in Melbourne – and it speaks to the communication and connection between these theatres, the artistic directors and playwrights across the country that this conversation, these multiple productions happened so often. Food for thought for our current landscape.
A Dramaturgical Process?
When I ask writers and directors from the time what the ‘process’ was for new writing, many wince or shift in their seat. There is a discomfort (perhaps uniquely Australian) in the idea of structures or systems, in study or seriousness – and I get an answer roughly like ‘there was no process, scripts were written and read and if we liked them we’d meet for a drink and start rehearsals.’ Despite the understandable discomfort with post-hoc attempts to ascribe a dramaturgy to what was essentially begun as an organic process amongst peers – patterns emerge. This rigorous but relaxed method produced work, at staggering (and perhaps ultimately unsustainable) volume – they MADE plays and TOURED plays – no prizes, no endless developments or commissions without intention to produce – plays made real. And audiences loved it.
It has been a labour of love for us at Australian Plays – taking more than two and a half years and stretching across State archives, dusty attics, private collections and of course the memories, manuscripts and musings of the playwrights and artists themselves. Whilst many are sadly no longer with us – we hope this Collection reminds us all of the strength and impact of this theatrical legacy and the rich and deep nature of our playwriting culture. This is just one corner of the tapestry of our theatre – but we hope by adding a few strands, we can see a bigger and more human picture.
Literary Manager, Australian Plays (2018 – 2020)
A Message From Katharine Brisbane
This program will prove a major asset to those who work in, study or just enjoy the theatre of this country. It addresses the biggest hurdle to original work, even today: an understanding of, and interest in, our cultural history.
It was the 1920s, in the aftermath of the Great War, when we began to explore for the first time how the concept of being Australian (as opposed to British) might be expressed. And it took another fifty years before the post-World War II baby boomers reached their majority and set about making us a different Australia. The arrival of an Australian-born-and-bred theatre was a part of that.
Nimrod 50 gives a comprehensive picture of the aspiring writers from all states who answered Nimrod’s call; and will be followed by other collections for a similar purpose . Together they will be a vital social way for us to engage today’s minds in the task of building the miscellany into a received store of national drama of the kind on which other countries so gratefully depend.
Currency Press published its first play, Macquarie by Alex Buzo, in 1971. The announcement of a publishing opportunity brought a shower of scripts from tiny theatres like Melbourne’s La Mama. Within eighteen months I was met by a long-haired streak called David Williamson, laden with three unperformed texts, among them The Removalists. It was a historic moment: the words flew off the page and we were on our way.
When a need is met a spark will soon be lit. I look forward to watching the process fired by this Collection. Of the many texts I read in those early days the main thing I remember that hindered progress was an actors’ workshop edit and a decent period of development. We didn’t know how to do it then but we do now.
Biggles | Michael Boddy, Marcus Cooney, Ron Blair
Flash Jim Vaux | Ron Blair | NIMROD 50 COLLECTION
The Roy Murphy Show | Alex Buzo
Customs and Excise | Jack Hibberd | PREMIERE PUBLICATION – NIMROD 50 COLLECTION
The Duke of Edinburgh Assassinated | Bob Ellis & Dick Hall
The Removalists | David Williamson
Hamlet on Ice | Michael Boddy with Rory O’Donoghue & Graham Bond
Shadows of Blood | Helmut Bakaitis
Rooted | Alex Buzo
On Yer Marx: Bigotry V.C. & Housey | John Wood
Sweatproof Boy | Alma De Groen
Basically Black | Bob Maza & Gary Foley
Last Supper Show | Michael Boddy
President Wilson in Paris | Ron Blair | COMING SOON
The Chocolate Frog | Jim McNeil
Old Familiar Juice | Jim McNeil
Tom | Alex Buzo
A Hard God | Peter Kenna
Summer of the Seventeenth Doll | Ray Lawler
Jesters | Michael Cove
Coralie Lansdowne Says No | Alex Buzo
The Bacchoi | Bryan Nason
Well Hung | Robert Lord (playwright from New Zealand)
Kookaburra | Michael Cove
How Does Your Garden Grow | Jim McNeil
Ginge’s Last Stand | Kenneth Horler
No Man’s Land (Crossfire) | Jennifer Compton
You Want it Billy, Don’t You? | Bill Reed
Perfectly All Right | Alma De Groen | NIMROD 50 COLLECTION
The Joss Adams Show | Alma De Groen | NIMROD 50 COLLECTION
They’re Playing Our Song | Jennifer Compton | COMING SOON
The Christian Brothers | Ron Blair
Mates | Peter Kenna
The Floating World | John Romeril
Martello Towers | Alex Buzo
Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know | Ron Blair | COMING SOON
A Handful of Friends | David Williamson
The Elocution of Benjamin Franklin | Steve J. Spears | NIMROD 50 COLLECTION
Young Mo (full title: The Resuscitation of the Little Prince Who Couldn’t Laugh as Performed by Young Mo at the Height of the Great Depression of 1929) | Steve J. Spears | PREMIERE PUBLICATION – NIMROD 50 COLLECTION
Going Home | Alma De Groen | NIMROD 50 COLLECTION
Jack | Jim McNeil
The Club | David Williamson
Inner Voices | Louis Nowra
Bananas | Richard Bradshaw
The Coroner’s Report | John Summons
The Flaw | Mil Perrin
I’ll Be In On That | Anne Harvey | NIMROD 50 COLLECTION
Stretch of the Imagination | Jack Hibberd
Alitji in Wonderland | Richard Bradshaw
Treasure Island | Kenneth Horler
Rock-Ola | Tim Gooding
A Visit With the Family | Greg Bunbury
Everyman: a Sentence Situation | Rudi Krausman
Stubble and Marxisms | Moya Henderson
Kold Komfort Kaffee | Robyn Archer & Kenneth Horler
There Were Giants in Those Days | Steve J. Spears | PREMIERE PUBLICATION – NIMROD 50 COLLECTION
The Job | Lloyd Suttor
Gone with Hardy | David Allen | PREMIERE PUBLICATION – NIMROD 50 COLLECTION
Perfect Strangers | Ron Blair | COMING SOON
Makassar Reef | Alex Buzo
The Christian Brothers | Ron Blair
Travelling North | David Williamson
Bastard from the Bush | Rodney Fisher & Robin Ramsay
Upside Down at the Bottom of the World | David Allen | PREMIERE PUBLICATION – NIMROD 50 COLLECTION
Potiphar’s Wife | FF Piano (the pen name of Margot Hilton) | NIMROD 50 COLLECTION
Vicki Madison Clocks Out | Alex Buzo
Sideshow in Burlesco | Martin Raphael & Michael Matou
On Our Selection | Steele Rudd
Bullie’s House | Thomas Keneally | COMING SOON
House of the Deaf Man | John King
Inside the Island | Louis Nowra | NIMROD 50 COLLECTION
Celluloid Heroes | David Williamson
Traitors | Stephen Sewell
Clowneroonies | Geoffrey Rush
Backyard | Janis Balodis
You & the Night & the House Wine | Robyn Moase
Krazy for You | Jeannie Lewis
Burlesco | Martin Raphael & Michael Matou
The Choir | Errol Bray
Last Days in Woolloomooloo | Ron Blair | COMING SOON
Roses in Due Season | Doreen Clarke
Slice | Tony Strachan & K Carpenter
Pinball | Alison Lyssa | NIMROD 50 COLLECTION
Eyes of the Whites | Tony Strachan
Desert Flambe | Chrissie Koltai & Desert Wombats
Cain’s Hand | Allan Mackay & H Bakaitis
Welcome the Bright World | Stephen Sewell
Party Wall | Ken Horler
Tristram Shandy – Gent | Tim Robertson (adaptation)
Flash Jim Vaux | Ron Blair | NIMROD 50 COLLECTION
Variations | Nick Enright & Terrence Clarke
Demolition Job | Gordon Graham
New Sky | Judith Anderson
Burn Victim | from idea by Stephen Sewell
Buffaloes Can’t Fly | Simon Hopkins
A Night With The Right | Max Gillies & John Clarke
Cocky of Bungaree | Richard Tulloch
The Kid | Michael Gow
Are You Lonesome Tonight? | Pamela van Amstel
There’s a Ghost on Clark Island | Tony Taylor
The Servant of Two Masters | Ron Blair & Nick Enright (adaptation)
The Boiling Frog | Alison Lyssa | NIMROD 50 COLLECTION
A Toast to Melba | Jack Hibberd
The Women of March the First | Lissa Benyon
The Christian Brothers | Ron Blair
Graeme ‘King’ Lear | Barry Dickins | COMING SOON
Il Magnifico | Robyn Archer
The Golden Oldies | Dorothy Hewett | COMING SOON
Performing Seals | Barbara Pepworth | NIMROD 50 COLLECTION
Mystery of Mulligan’s Gold | Richard Tulloch
Cheapside | David Allen | NIMROD 50 COLLECTION
Max Gillies Summit | Max Gillies
A Stretch of the Imagination | Jack Hibberd
Nimrod 50 is an ongoing project – as it develops plays and resources will be added.
50 Years Of Stables
Australian Plays would like to acknowledge Currency Press for their vital support of the Australian Theatre industry and thank them for their help in tracing playwrights, scripts, imagery and their willingness to support this important project. We acknowledge the important work Yackandandah Press and others also played in publishing Australian plays.
We would like to thank the following individuals and organisations that without their support this project would not have happened:
Robyn Archer| Hilary Bell | John Bell | Ron Blair | Ross Bruzzese at NIDA Library | Alma De Groen | Ben Ellis | Jennifer Gaschler | the Horler Family | Declan Greene and all at Griffin Theatre | staff of the Mitchell Library | Aarne Neeme | staff of the State Library of New South Wales | Cobie Orger | Susan Wallace | Chris Westwood, and all the brilliant Nimrod playwrights, their agents and estates.
Thank you from all of us at Australian Plays.