'Patrick White's love of the theatre began early in life and he especially enjoyed the company of actors. He wrote roles for specific actors, such as Kerry Walker and Max Cullen, frequently made recommendations to directors as to which actors should play particular parts in his plays, and spent long periods at rehearsals observing quietly. At times, he was overcome with emotion as the actors worked. White also famously 'took up' a few Australian actors and cultivated their friendship, notably Walker and Kate Fitzpatrick.
'Perhaps more than any other actor, Robyn Nevin brought White's modernist theatricality to life in her extraordinary portrayal of Miss Docker in Jim Sharman's production of A Cheery Soul in 1979. H.G. Kippax described Nevin's performance as 'dazzling', referring to the production as both 'spectacular and poetic'. This article considers Robyn Nevin in the context of theatrical modernism and the plays of Patrick White. Nevin's range is wide and her capacity for comic acting is particularly versatile. Nevin's comic acting in White's plays demonstrates her contribution to an Australian style of acting that is evident in the work of Nevin as well as in that of Walker and Cullen. This style of acting, developed in Australia with directors John Bell, Rex Cramphorn and Jim Sharman, has powerfully shaped our understanding of White's plays and modernist drama, allowing a new perspective on aesthetic modernism. The article focuses on the constellation of White, Sharman and Nevin in creating the landmark production of A Cheery Soul in 1979.' (Publication abstract)