Issue Details: First known date: 2005 2005
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'Gough Whitlam's decision in 1974 to appear in Barry Humphries's film about a larrikin abroad, Barry McKenzie Holds His Own, marks a potent moment in Australia's post-imperial history - a moment when the politics of Australian theatre and the theatre of Australian politics directly coincided. In their different spheres, Humphries and Whitlam dramatised the waning British connection felt by Australians. Whitlam's own version of 'new nationalism' was brash and confident enough to embrace the eccentricities and vulgarities of Humphries's satire. Yet Whitlam's 'new nationalism,' like Humphries's satire, was highly ambivalent. Humphries's first film, The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, was a direct product of the new nationalist enthusiasm that had brought Whitlam to power. Although it was savaged by the critics, the film was a box-office success. Intellectuals such as Patrick White, Manning Clark and Geoffrey Dutton lavished praise on Humphries and his satirical portrayal of Australian anxieties about culture and national identity. Humphries portrayed the underlying dilemma that Whitlam faced in refashioning the image of modern Australia: how to throw off the symbols of colonialism and find meaningful symbols to replace them. In the process, both the politician and the humourist rediscovered a particular and enduring affection for the mother country.'

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Last amended 2 Feb 2012