Jacqy Phillps as Karen and Russell Kiefel as Chris in the State Theatre Company of South Australia’s 1986 production of Dreams in an Empty City.
Stephen Sewell's 1986 exemplifies the traits of the decade: apocalyptic in feel, epic in scope and unforgiving in length
Happy and Holy: Barry Otto as Tockey, Ruth Cracknell as Cecilia McManus, Graham Rowe as Denny, Ron Hadrick as O'Halloran in a 1982 production by the Sydney Theatre Company.
Photographer David Wilson.
The 1970s transformed Australian drama. It was a time of imaginative brilliance as the Empire wrote back.
The opening scene of The Cake Man, recreating the arrival of the British in Australia.
Robert Merritt, author of The Cake Man, grew up on the Erambie Mission at Cowra. His play captures the grinding poverty and emotional paralysis of the mission experience.
Peter Cummins as Monk O’Neill in the 1972 Australian Performing Group production of A Stretch of the Imagination.
David Williamson and Jack Hibberd tower over Australian drama. Williamson's The Department and Hibberd's A Stretch of the Imagination both showcase the strange yet compelling detachment of these playwrights' visions.
The Chapel Perilous follows the life of Sally Banner “a rebel in word and deed”.
No other Australian playwright has mined their own life as much as Dorothy Hewett. In this expressionist drama, she depicts a girl of yearning heart, looking for love and hungry for life.
The swinging sixties arrived in Australian theatre with a bang.
The plays of Alex Buzo captured the spirit of rebellion of a new generation of theatre artists.
Robyn Nevin was horrible – and horribly funny – as Miss Docker in A Cheery Soul.
Robyn Nevin and Gillian Jones in A Cheery Soul, 2000, co-produced by STC and Belvoir St Theatre. Photo: Heidrun Löhr ©
An early review of Patrick White’s A Cheery Soul said it 'upset everybody who saw it'. But this extraordinary play, once a victim of 60s cultural cringe, marked a turning point in Australian theatre.
Summer of the Seventeenth Doll is one of the most famous – and most revived – Australian plays of all time.
Melbourne Theatre Company/Jeff Busby
In 1955 two plays – The Torrents and Summer of the Seventeenth Doll – burst into Australian theatre. Funny and tragic in deeply Australian ways, they marked a new horizon of creative possibility.
‘Molly? Molly? MOLLY?’ Tony Barry as Keghead in Rusty Bugles.
ABC/National Film and Sound Archive
The best Australian play ever written is revolutionary in its treatment of plot, character and language. It has a weary, sardonic perspective on war and an unheroic worldview.
The Theatre Royal in Hobart, Australia’s oldest continuously operating theatre.
Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office/Flickr
The idea of a 'canon' changes over time and despite its elitist overtones, identifying one can be both illuminating and fun. In a new series, we nominate the best of Australian drama.