PLAY AN INSIGHT INTO AUSTRALIA
THEATRE EAST Victoria Park resident Phil Barnett is taking to the stage next month in an Australian play from the 1950s that highlights parallels with today’s fly-in, fly-out workers.
Written by Ray Lawler and directed by Trevor Dhu at the Old Mild Theatre, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll is considered by literary scholars to be the most significant in Australian theatre history because it provided a turning point where distinctly Australian life and characters were openly and authentically portrayed.
Two itinerant cane cutters, Barney and Roo (played by Barnett), have spent the past 16 summers off with two ladies in Melbourne.
Every year, Roo has brought a tinsel doll to his girl Olive, as a gift to symbolise their relationship, but this 17th summer is different somehow.
All four lovers come to face certain unpleasant truths about themselves in what is described as an unusual, compelling love story.
“Roo is a 41-yearold cane cutter who can no longer compete with the younger men,” Barnett said.
“To be able to appreciate the tensions within the play, you need to understand the social conditions of the 1950s, such as the gender roles, attitudes towards sexual morality and tradi- tional notions of Australian identity. It’s actually been described as Australia’s A Streetcar Named De- sire with its mix of romantic dreams and fragility combined with harsh truths and gritty realism.”
SummeroftheSeventeenthDoll cast (clockwise from bottom) Phil Barnett, Anna Head, Jarrod Buttery, Jennifer McGrath, Patrick Whitelaw, Jesse McGinn and Shirley Toohey.