Described by Dorothy Hewett in her 1979 Hecate article as 'a romantic comedy, written around the principles of celebration and reconciliation... with love and the realisation of love... central to the story' (78), The Man From Mukinupin also deals with the juxtaposition of surface aspects of life and those which lie beneath the surface. The narrative concerns the courtship and eventual marriage of Polly and Jack, along with their doubles Lily and Harry. The two couples lives, played out in the mythical Western Australia wheat belt town of Mukinupin, are starkly contrasted. Jack and Polly belong to the seemingly respectable and conventional daytime society. Polly, is a double figure - an "about to be disappointed in love an life girl" but for whom everything does come out roses. Her other self is Lily (Touch-of-the-Tar), represents the outsider and outcast. Although Lily and Harry roam the dark netherworld of night-time Mukinupin, she too is able to realise her dream, to escape from the narrow little bush town with her lover. In contrast to these four are the grotesque characters, Widow Tuesday, the Black Widow of Mukinupin who delights in death and destruction; and Edie Perkins, the old lady who recites snatches of Victorian poetry. In discussing the role of her female characters Hewett indicates that the thematic struggle mostly lies within the range of the women : 'They are the most aware of the predicament and are the most violently affected by it' ('Creating Heroines', p79).
Commissioned for the 150th anniversary of the state of Western Australia, The Man from Mukinupin was first produced at the Playhouse, Perth by the National Theatre Co. beginning 31 August 1979. The director was Stephen Barry. Jim Cotter (q.v.) composed the music. The 1981 Melbourne Theatre Company production (Russell Street Theatre) contained new music written by Elizabeth Riddle (q.v.).
Other notable productions include : State Theatre Company of South Australia (Playhouse Theatre, Adelaide, 1980) ; Sydney Opera House (1981), directed by Rodney Fisher (q.v.) ; Old Vic Theatre, London (1981) ; Theatre 3, Canberra (1982), directed by Ross McGregor, with Jim Cotter (music director) ; NIDA (Parade Theatre, Sydney, 1990), directed by Terry Clarke.
The Man from Mukinupin has been staged many times by amateur theatre companies, and because of its thematic issues is frequently produced by university drama schools.