John Romeril was born and educated in Melbourne, attending Bentleigh West State School, Brighton Tech., and Brighton High, and graduating from Monash University in 1970 with majors in English Literature and Politics. He lived in Moorabin until 1966, and after that in South Yarra and North Fitzroy, with prolonged stints in central Victoria.
Romeril produced four plays whilst still at university, and was drawn to La Mama theatre in 1968, which was established by Betty Burstall in that year. He became a member of a loose association of people gathered there, who by 1969 had organised themselves as the Australian Performing Group (APG), and by 1970 had established the Pram Factory. The APG performed many of Romeril's plays, which premiered at the Pram Factory, and Romeril also collaborated with other APG writers such as Jack Hibberd and Tim Robertson (qq.v.).
As well as almost sixty plays, including 'The Chesty Bond Cop-Out', 'He Can Swagger Sitting Down', 'The Magnetic Martian Potato', and 'The Dudders', Romeril has written teleplays and screenplays. He has been a writer in residence with Jigsaw theatre company in Canberra, and Troupe theatre in Adelaide, and he won the first Canada-Australia Literary Award in 1976. Romeril is also the author of the Six of the Best : an introduction to the television drama series (1984).
Romeril's improvisational, musical theatre is often created in a collaborative environment of frequent workshopping and performances, enabling many people to contribute to the development of each work. In his plays Romeril has explored the many influences on Australian society, including war, American cultural imperialism and national politics. Influenced by Brecht, his plays often demand audience participation, seen most spectacularly in the improvisational Kelly Dance where audience members are encouraged to participate in bush dances on stage. Romeril's most-admired play is The Floating World (1975) in which the character Les Harding is haunted by his experiences of World War II while on a cruise from Australia to Japan.
A young girl goes missing within the Australian landscape and her father refuses to let an Aboriginal man, Albert, be included in the search party and utilise his 'tracking' skills. It is a decision that proves fatal. Months later, the child's mother approaches Albert to begin the tracking process that eventually leads her to her lost child.