y Possum Paddock single work   drama   humour   - 4 Acts
Issue Details: First known date: 1919 1919
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

Romantic comedy.

The most popular and most often revived of Kate Howarde's original plays, Possum Paddock was written in the tradition of homely bush comedies established a few years previous by Steele Rudd (author) and Bert Bailey (dramatist), albeit with more of a romantic angle than On Our Selection.

Set on a fifty acre paddock belonging to Andrew McQuade, the first act revolves around his family's struggle to retain their land given that it is to be sold to pay outstanding debts. To make matters worse McQuade's cantankerous neighbour and rival, Dan Martin, is set on purchasing it once it comes up for auction. The arrival of Mrs McQuade's wealthy city cousin, Nella Carsely, who has come to the country for a visit following the death of her husband, sees the property saved, however, when she outbids Martin at the auction. It is later revealed that a railroad is to be built through the property and that this will greatly increase its value.

The remainder of the play focuses on various romantic entanglements, wherein McQuade's two sons fall for Martin's two daughters, much to the chagrin of both fathers'. Martin's spinster sister also finds love after a riding accident forces her to recuperate at the McQuades and she meets the affable rouseabout Shad. Meanwhile McQuade's daughter, Nancy, who has just returned from school in the city finds herself being pursued by an unscrupulous stock inspector, Fred Deering. Although she unwittingly agrees to elope with him Deering's plan is thwarted when Nella tricks him into admitting, within earshot of the Nancy, that he is only interested in the money she is to inherit from her deceased uncle. In the last act things turn out for the better when the railroad is finally built and Nancy finds true love in the arms of new chum Englishman. She in turn finds a suitable match for her aunt in the shape of a good-hearted young selector.

The synopsis of scenes, as published in the Brisbane Courier is : Act 1. The McQuade Homestead ; The Family Find ; The Auction Scene ; The Rich Widow from the City. Act 2. The Great Tea Party ; The Buggy Accident ; Bill's New Boots. Act 3. Dad Discourses on the Proposed Railroad ; Putting One Over on Shad ; Bill Proposes. Act 4. Getting Ready for the Dance ; Hugh Bracken Returns ; What the Conservatory Held ; The Great Dance (21 February 1920, p2).

The 1932 revival saw the song, 'Silver Threads Among the Gold' performed in the second act by Jean Argyle.

Adaptations

form y Possum Paddock Kate Howarde , Australia : Kate Howarde , 1921 Z1719213 1921 single work film/TV 'This [silent film] is the screen adaptation of theatrical entrepreneur Kate Howarde's very successful stage play. The incomplete footage goes some way to showing why the storyline was so popular, with struggling bushman Andrew McQuade having to sell off his precious 50 acre field 'Possum Paddock', to pay off his bank loan. The trials and tribulations of the paddock and of daughter Nancy, who is courted by both a gentlemanly neighbour and a cad happily resolve themselves ... The film did well commercially after opening at the Lyric Theatre, Sydney on 29 January 1921. A scene involving the plight of an unmarried mother was cut by censors. Critics found the film a little long but likeable. Much of the stage cast was retained for the film.' (National Film and Sound Archive record)

Notes

  • Richard Fotheringham notes that although largely regarded by the critics as 'energetic and entertaining' (Companion to Theatre in Australia, 1995, p463), most still found Howarde's play 'plotless, artless and a dilution of earlier genres,' with some even questioning how much relation to life there is in plays which mix melodrama, comedy and farce (see for example: Argus 25 April 1927, p8). Typical of such reviews is the Sydney Morning Herald report on the 1919 world premiere, which suggests that while the show would no doubt have a long run, 'had the script been submitted to the average metropolitan expert actor-manager or press critic it would have been turned down without the least hesitation.' The reviewer's main point of contention was the overwhelming amount of dialogue 'in proportion to the slight dramatic movement... There are [also] about half a dozen proposal scenes to some extent differentiated no doubt, but not to an extent which in the least justifies their recurrence. However, no one in the profession or out of it for that matter will grudge Miss Howarde her success' (8 September 1919, p4).

  • In reviewing the 1927 Melbourne revival the Age theatre critic writes: 'Whether the bush people represented were portraits or caricatures was immaterial; nor did it matter whether the incidents and machinery resembled something else which has secured a place as Australian farce-drama - based on Steele Rudd's famous story of life on an Australian selection. Miss Kate Howarde is to be congratulated on being able to accommodate the people who want more to laugh than to think, and in the mixing of the stock ingredients for their fare' (25 April 1927, p12). The Bulletin's review of the same production expresses similar sentiments: 'All the familiar stereotypes were duly dusted and brought out, and in having two semi-idiot sons of the homestead making stuttering advances to two moronic village damsels, the authoress was in danger of overstocking her available pasture... Possum Paddock makes no serious pretence of being anything more than an odd bit of stage bush scenery, beginning anywhere and ending in the same locality. In fact, its crisis occurs in the first act and it remaining three are in the nature of a comic epilogue. But loud laughs throng around it like mosquitoes about a swamp, and they thicken most when Walter Cornock happens to be upon the stage' (28 April 1927, p52).

  • E. D. K., the Green Room's theatre critic similarly writes in 1923 : 'One doesn't suppose that Miss Howarde herself regards the play as a literary gem ; doubtless, if it were so, it might have died stillborn, for your average Australian has no time for what he cannot understand, and the rank and file of him gets its literary inspiration chiefly from the scintillating columns of the sporting pages. Hence, Miss Howarde was wise enough in her generation to write a play that could be understood of the common people and apparently has achieved a theatrical and a financial success. Bulletin and other similar writers seem to have established a kind of literary canon that the man from the country districts always interlards his speech with such expressions as "Cripes!," "Spare me days!," "My oath!," "Dinkum," and "Be blowed," that he misplaces the letter "h,' omits the final "g," and indulges in such outré pronunciations as "dorg" for dog and "laig" for leg. Such conditions may have obtained forty or fifty years ago, but latterly the schoolmaster has been more constantly abroad and Bill-Jim's lingual eccentricities have become much modified. Possum Paddock has specimens of most of the good old standardised stock characters of melodrama: the good old father and mother, the sweet innocent daughter, the villain - a mild one in this case - who would marry her for her money; the English Johnny who is not altogether the fool that he looks; the manly hero who is attracted by the sweet daughter, but eventually marries the city lady of a more mature age, sound judgment and strict morals; the grasping neighbour, an envious David who coverts the Australian Naboth's creek paddock; his gawky girls who confer the glad eye upon the good father's bucolic sons, despite the fierce opposition of their father, the aforesaid envious David, a sententious rouseabout who enigmatically informs the city lady that he belongs to a shy family... These characters - some of them more theatrical than natural - were nevertheless well individualised' (March 1923, p5).

  • Advertising in the Brisbane Courier (21 February 1920, p2) includes a brief poem;

    Two men went for a fishing trip / They hoped to catch some Haddock / The only thing they caught was colds / Then cursed their luck till they grew old / For missing Possum Paddock.

    while advertisements placed in the Argus in 1927 claim : 'Possum Paddock is the Spot where the Real "Digger" Humour was Born" (see 7 May 1927, p38).

Production Details

  • 1919 : Theatre Royal, Sydney ; 7 September - 17 October. Dir. Kate Howarde ; Scenic Art Harry Whaite.- Cast: John Cosgrove (Andrew 'Dad' McQuade), Cora Warner (Maggie 'Mum' McQuade), Fred MacDonald (Billy McQuade, the eldest son), Jack Souter (Bobby McQuade, the youngest son), Rose Rooney (Nancy McQuade, their daughter), Kate Howarde (Nella Carsley, a city widow), Neill Alexander (Shad Cummings, a rouseabout), Jack Kirby (Hugh Bracken, a squatter), Johnston Weir (Dan Martin, the rival cockie), Leslie Woods (Fred Deering, a stock inspector), Louis Machilton (Leonard Allpress, a young Englishman), Syd Knowles (Miles Gillies, a settler), Bert Lynn (James Ogden, an auctioneer), Vivian Langley (Elizabeth Martin, Dan's sister), Jessie Dale (Mary Ellen Martin, Dan's eldest daughter), Alice Walton (Anastasia Martin, Dan's youngest daughter).

    1920 : Theatre Royal, Brisbane ; 21 February - 6 March. Cast and production mostly as for previous Sydney season.


    • New cast members were : Jim Perry (Shad Cummings), Alex McDonald (Dan Martin), Len Budderick (Fred Deering), Leslie Woods (Leonard Allpress), Cleave McGrath (James Ogden), Coral Warner (Mary Ellen Martin), Mabel Waters (Anastasia Martin, Dan's youngest daughter).

    1923 : Grand Opera House, Sydney ; 17 February - 16 March. Dir. Kate Howarde ; Prod. George Marlowe. Cast incl. S. A. Fitzgerald (Dad McQuade), Cora Warner (Mum McQuade), Fred Stephenson (Billy McQuade), Felix Bland (Bobby McQuade), Arthur Ordell (Dan McQuade), Doreen Sweet (Nancy McQuade), George Cross (Hugh Bracken), Kate Howarde (Nella Carsley), Syd Knowles (Miles Gillies), Ethel Raye (Elizabeth Martin), Vera St John (Mary Ellen Martin), Jack McGowan, John Galway, Oliver Barclay, Jock Sherwood.

    1927 : Palace Theatre, Melbourne ; 23 April - 3 June. Dir. Kate Howarde ; Prod. Fullers' Theatres Ltd. - Cast incl. S. A. Fitzgerald (Dad McQuade), Cora Warner (Mum McQuade), Walter Cornock (Billy McQuade), Fred Stephenson (Bobby McQuade), Fred Patey (Dan Martin), Alex McPherson (James Ogden), James Perrie (Shad Cummings), Molly Raynor (Nancy McQuade), Mr Vivian Edwards (Hugh Bracken), Mona Thomas (Nella Carsley), Olive Sinclair (Elizabeth Martin), Jean Crossley (Mary Ellen Martin).

    1932 : Grand Opera House, Sydney ; 27 February - ca. 19 March. Dir/Prod. Kate Howarde ; Music Dir. Louis L. Howarde. - Cast incl. Len Buderick (Andrew McQuade), Connie Martyn (Mum McQuade), Kate Howarde (Nella Carsley), Jean Argyle, Poppy Adare, Olive Sinclair, Bebe Scott, Fred Argyle, Charlton Aird, George Cross, Syd Knowles, Andrew Hodge, Talbot Symes, Dick Ryan. An exact closing date for this season has not yet been established.


    • Advertising in the Sydney Morning Herald stops abruptly after the 19 March issue with no notice of an impending season closure date prior to that date.
  • This entry has been sourced from on-going historical research into Australian popular theatre being conducted by Dr Clay Djubal. Details have also been derived in part from Richard Fotheringham's entry in The Companion to Theatre in Australia (q.v., 462-3)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

First known date: 1919
      1919 .
      Extent: 78p.
      Description: Typescript with handwritten notes and corrections
      (Manuscript) assertion

      Holdings

      Held at: National Archives of Australia National Archives Library
      Local Id: A1336 -7819
      Note:
      A digital copy is available online through the National Archive of Australia. The holding includes copyright application and several telegrams.
      1919 .
      Extent: 77 l.p.
      (Manuscript) assertion

      Holdings

      Held at: University of Queensland University of Queensland Library Fryer Library
      Location: The Hanger Collection of Australian Playscripts
      Local Id: H0852
      1934 .
      (Manuscript) assertion

      Holdings

      Held at: National Archives of Australia National Archives Library
      Local Id: A1336 - 25752
      Note:
      This manuscript is a revised and updated version.

Works about this Work

Celebrating Kate Howarde Ina Bertrand , 2002 single work criticism
— Appears in: Senses of Cinema , September-October no. 22 2002;
The Bushranger, The Larrikin and the Digger; Travelling Theatre and Nationhood Barbara Garlick , 2001 single work criticism
— Appears in: Defining Acts : Australia on Stage : A Centenary of Federation Exhibition Celebrating the Australian Character on the Popular Stage over the Past 100 Years 2001; (p. 14-25)

'The first organised theatrical performance in any of the Australian colonies is usually thought to be The Recruiting Officer, a popular London play staged in a convict hut in 1789 before Governor Phillip, probably by some of the same convicts who had put on an improvised theatrical entertainment on board one of the ships in the first fleet, the Scarborough, in early January 1788. From the date of white settlement therefore travelling is one notable defining feature in the history of theatre in Australia. As important to its history as it develops through time is the way that theatre in Australia progressed across the landscape, in the process mimicking colonial history itself.' (p. 14)

'Possum Paddock' : Grand Opera House 1932 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 29 February 1932; (p. 4)

— Review of Possum Paddock Kate Howarde 1919 single work drama
Palace Theatre - 'Possum Paddock' 1927 single work review
— Appears in: The Age , 25 April 1927; (p. 12)

— Review of Possum Paddock Kate Howarde 1919 single work drama
'Possum Paddock' : Australian Comedy-Drama Revived 1927 single work review
— Appears in: The Argus , 25 April 1927; (p. 8)

— Review of Possum Paddock Kate Howarde 1919 single work drama
Sundry Shows 1927 single work review
— Appears in: The Bulletin , 28 April vol. 48 no. 2463 1927; (p. 52)

— Review of Possum Paddock Kate Howarde 1919 single work drama
'Possum Paddock' 1923 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 19 February 1923; (p. 5)

— Review of Possum Paddock Kate Howarde 1919 single work drama
The Plays of the Month : 'Possum Paddock' E. D. K. , 1923 single work review
— Appears in: Green Room , March 1923; (p. 5)

— Review of Possum Paddock Kate Howarde 1919 single work drama
Review of the 1923 Grand Opera House (Sydney) revival.
'Possum Paddock' 1920 single work review
— Appears in: The Brisbane Courier , 23 February 1920; (p. 8)

— Review of Possum Paddock Kate Howarde 1919 single work drama
'Possum Paddock' Scores - An Australian Winner 1919 single work review
— Appears in: Green Room , October 1919; (p. 19)

— Review of Possum Paddock Kate Howarde 1919 single work drama
'Possum Paddock' 1919 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 8 September 1919; (p. 4)

— Review of Possum Paddock Kate Howarde 1919 single work drama
'Possum Paddock' Scores - An Australian Winner 1919 single work review
— Appears in: Green Room , October 1919; (p. 19)

— Review of Possum Paddock Kate Howarde 1919 single work drama
'Possum Paddock' 1920 single work review
— Appears in: The Brisbane Courier , 23 February 1920; (p. 8)

— Review of Possum Paddock Kate Howarde 1919 single work drama
'Possum Paddock' 1919 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 8 September 1919; (p. 4)

— Review of Possum Paddock Kate Howarde 1919 single work drama
Palace Theatre - 'Possum Paddock' 1927 single work review
— Appears in: The Age , 25 April 1927; (p. 12)

— Review of Possum Paddock Kate Howarde 1919 single work drama
'Possum Paddock' : Australian Comedy-Drama Revived 1927 single work review
— Appears in: The Argus , 25 April 1927; (p. 8)

— Review of Possum Paddock Kate Howarde 1919 single work drama
Sundry Shows 1927 single work review
— Appears in: The Bulletin , 28 April vol. 48 no. 2463 1927; (p. 52)

— Review of Possum Paddock Kate Howarde 1919 single work drama
'Possum Paddock' 1923 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 19 February 1923; (p. 5)

— Review of Possum Paddock Kate Howarde 1919 single work drama
'Possum Paddock' : Grand Opera House 1932 single work review
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 29 February 1932; (p. 4)

— Review of Possum Paddock Kate Howarde 1919 single work drama
The Plays of the Month : 'Possum Paddock' E. D. K. , 1923 single work review
— Appears in: Green Room , March 1923; (p. 5)

— Review of Possum Paddock Kate Howarde 1919 single work drama
Review of the 1923 Grand Opera House (Sydney) revival.
Celebrating Kate Howarde Ina Bertrand , 2002 single work criticism
— Appears in: Senses of Cinema , September-October no. 22 2002;
The Bushranger, The Larrikin and the Digger; Travelling Theatre and Nationhood Barbara Garlick , 2001 single work criticism
— Appears in: Defining Acts : Australia on Stage : A Centenary of Federation Exhibition Celebrating the Australian Character on the Popular Stage over the Past 100 Years 2001; (p. 14-25)

'The first organised theatrical performance in any of the Australian colonies is usually thought to be The Recruiting Officer, a popular London play staged in a convict hut in 1789 before Governor Phillip, probably by some of the same convicts who had put on an improvised theatrical entertainment on board one of the ships in the first fleet, the Scarborough, in early January 1788. From the date of white settlement therefore travelling is one notable defining feature in the history of theatre in Australia. As important to its history as it develops through time is the way that theatre in Australia progressed across the landscape, in the process mimicking colonial history itself.' (p. 14)

Last amended 28 Jul 2016 17:57:33
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