AustLit logo
y separately published work icon The Touch of Silk single work   drama   - Three acts
Issue Details: First known date: 1928... 1928 The Touch of Silk
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

AbstractHistoryArchive Description

A poignant drama centred on Jeanne, a homesick French war bride and her shell-shocked husband battling hardship and prejudice in a drought-stricken Mallee town.

Adaptations

form y separately published work icon The Touch of Silk Betty Roland , 2011 2011 9508264 2011 single work radio play

A poignant drama centred on Jeanne, a homesick French war bride and her shell-shocked husband battling hardship and prejudice in a drought-stricken Mallee town.

Notes

Production Details

  • 1928: Playhouse Theatre, Melbourne; 3 (World Premiere) and 5-8 November 

    • Producer: Melbourne Repertory Theatre Society Director: Frank D. Clewlow
    • Cast: Jack O'Keefe, Lucy Ahon, George Faulkner, Betty Rae, Kathleen Salter, David Dorrity, Hilary Blake, Ruby May, Reg Moyle

    Sources: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/204241472

    https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/204131444


    1929: Turret Theatre, Milson's Point, NSW; 24 October (Sydney Premiere) - November

    • Producer: Scott Alexander
    • Cast: Freda McGhee, Sylvia Lance Thompson, Jean Morice, Arthur S. Reardon, Ivor Mitchell, Grant Cooper, Russell Lloyd, R. C. Bartlett, Hal Henshaw, F. Bowyer, Kitty Horne, Poppy Braby.
    • Long run throughout October and November, repeated Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for several weeks.
    • Opened to a full house on 24th October, with Betty Roland in attendance.
    • This performance was also broadcast on the radio.

    Sources: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/225156821

    https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/16595742

    https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/16595922

    https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/223501421

    https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/180834842


    1929: The Bohemia Theatre, Brisbane; 8 (Queensland Premiere) - 9 November

    • Producer: Brisbane Repertory Theatre Society, Rhoda Felgate
    • Cast: Cecil Carson, Mrs. R. Scott, Mrs. P. J. Symes, Ruth Simpson, Edgar Smith, Neville Raymond, Irene Silvester, Billie Keely, Jim Felgate, George Eaton, Douglas Henderson, Bob Risson.
    • Stage manager: Douglas Henderson Business Manager: Dr. F. W. Whitehouse.

    Sources: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/21472687

    https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/21479785


    1930: The Australia, Angas Street, Adelaide; 24, 28 and 31 May

    • Producer: Adelaide Repertory Theatre, Esmond George
    • Cast: Mimi Mattin, Ray Walsh, Charles Gordon, Ethelwyn Robin, Muriel Craigie, Olive March, Cecila/Celia Kitson, Don Downie, Colin Ballantyne, Hugh Ford, Robert Matthews, Lionel Nave
    • The opening performance was attended by Betty Roland (then Davies) and her husband Ellis H. Davies, and other notable audience members of later performances included the Adelaide Lord Mayor Mr Lavington Bonython and Lady Mayoress, and the Govenor and Lady Hore-Ruthven.
    • Accompanied with music by Muriel Prince and Lewis Jones.

    Sources: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/30485589

    https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/73805061

    https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/73810223

    https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/30484050

    https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/73803642


    1932: Princess Theatre, Melbourne; 3-4 August

    • Producer: Catherine Neille and Betty Roland
    • Scenery and lighting design: Irma Janetski
    • Cast: Lucy Ahon, Leslie Williams, Elizabeth Campkin, George Barton, Helton Daniel, Frank Goddard, Hattie Knight, Kathleen Salter, Em Dockery, Paul Northey, Ben Bremner, Wilson Scott, Lloyd Morris. 
    • All female executive team
    • In aid of the Children's Hospital

    Sources: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/242974344

    https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/203792898

    https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/243041350


    1934: Soviet Union

    • While in Russia, Betty sold the rights of the play to the Soviet, and became a registered memebr of the Society of Russian Playwrights' Association.
    • Betty Roland received 600 roubles and 4.5% of the takings of every performance for the play. 
    • The play was accepted for production at the Small Stage of the Pushkin Theatre of Leningrad, but the director of the Theatre was killed in one of Stalin's purges and the performance did not go ahead.

    Source: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/128852033

    https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/137006481


    1936: Princess Theatre, Brisbane; 3, 10 and 17 October

    • Producer: Brisbane Repertory Theatre, Dulcie Scott
    • Cast: Dulcie Scott, Bob Risson, Mavis Busch, Nancy Fowles, Roy Black, Nigel Jackson, Norton Stable, L. Swan, Betty Francis
    • Bob Risson and Dulcie Scott also performed in the Brisbane premiere of the play in 1929. 

    Sources: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/205446130

    https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/97972190


    1937: Perth; 14-17 April

    • Producer: Perth Repertory Club, Esmond George
    • Stage Manager: C. W. Scott
    • Electrician: Kirke Heardon
    • Prop master: Margaret Giles
    • Cast: Mary Ward, Joan Good, H. E. Braine, Frank O'Grady, J. Young, Muriel Jacobs, Marion Haynes, Peter Kemmis, Michael Eustace, A. W. Darbyshire, T. Trowell, A. B. Giles, Peter Webster. 

    Sources: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/58821995

    https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/41294730


    1939: 161 Forbes St, Sydney; 27 May

    • Producer: Bryant's Playhouse
    • Produced as part of "Australian Drama Month" festival under the auspices of the British Drama League.
    • Other plays produced at the festival include Are You Ready, Comrade?, also by Betty Roland (produced by New Theatre League), as well as The Ruling Passion by Dr. Duhig, To Mary, for Valour by Kitty Winter, Dampier's Ghost by Henrietta Drake, His Honour comes to Tea and Red Sky at Morning by Dymphna Cusack (produced by Teachers' Federation Dramatic Society), Interval by Summer L???e-Elliot (produced by Independent Theatre), By Wire by Mary Penelope Lucy (produced by Sydney University Dramatic Society), The Better Things of Life by J. W. Heming (produced by Australian Perpertory Theatre Players), Heatwave in the West by Dr. Macredi Luker (produced by Players' Club), Wives Have Their Uses by Gwen Meredith (produced by Chelsea Theatre Group), and Impasse and Winners by C. Hansby Read (produced by Talatah Players).

    Source: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/17588665


    1948: Stow Hall, Adelaide; 19-21 July

    • Producer: Adelaide Theatre Group, Patricia Kildea
    • Set Design: Stewart Game
    • Cast: Joy Shambrook, Guy Gray, Joan McDonald, Brett Pannell, John Gillespie, Nancy Michie, Margaret Ward, Delma Dickson, Ralph Binns, Tony Gun, Robert Ellenby, David Noon. 
    • Proceeds in aid of the Oral Pre-School Kindergarten

    Source: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/43775384


    1952: Williamstown, Victoria; 22-24 August

    • Producer: Little Theatre Movement, Mr Little
    • Cast: Joan Melmoth, Pam Black, Marion Becroft, winifred Steyart, Mrs. Little, Eric Black, Ted Cordell, Robert Hawdon, Allen Ames, Gordon Young

    Source: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/70704961


    1985: Adelaide Festival Centre Playhouse, Adelaide

    • Producer: State Theatre Co. of South Australia

    Source: https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.library.uq.edu.au/docview/1438407117?accountid=14723


    There have been numerous amateur productions in Australia since 1928, the details of some remain untraced. 


    First professional production:

    1976: Sydney; 25 September

    • Producer: Independent Theatre
    • Director: John Tasker
    • Set designer: Doug Kingsman
    • Cast: Betty Cheal, Kevin Howard, Fay Kelton, Leofric Kingsford-Smith, Brian Moll, Lynne Murphy, Sean Scully, Elizabeth Stroud, John Volz, David Williams, Eve Wynne.
    • Received grants from the New South Wales Government and Australia Council for the Arts

    Source: https://www.ausstage.edu.au/pages/event/14171

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

      1928 .
      Extent: 31 leavesp.
      Description: Typescript (photocopy).
      Written as: Betty M. Davies
      (Manuscript) assertion
      Note/s:
      • This version has one act.
      • Original in Australian Archives, ACT, accession A1336/1, item 17141. Includes copies of application for registration of copyright, 1928.

      Holdings

      Held at: University of Queensland University of Queensland Library Fryer Library
      Location: The Hanger Collection of Australian Playscripts
      Local Id: H1918
      Note:

      The Fryer Library holds multiple copies of the manuscript, with local IDs H1496A, H1496B and H1496C.

Other Formats

  • Also braille and sound recording.

Works about this Work

Storytelling Permutations in the Performance of Life Narrative Betty Roland’s Caviar for Breakfast Maureen Clark , 2013 single work criticism
— Appears in: Transnational Literature , November vol. 6 no. 1 2013;

Betty Roland (1903-1996), a little-known figure in Australian literary circles, was a prolific storyteller. Whilst there are few zones of literature into which she did not venture between the late 1920s and 1990, Roland is perhaps best remembered as a dramatist. Her Australian outback melodrama, The Touch of Silk, was first performed by the Melbourne Repertory Company in 1928, and is still produced today. Reviewers of the time described the play as ‘a beautiful and abiding piece’ of theatre, and named Roland as Australia’s first genuine playwright. Silk’s bleak twists and far-reaching insights into authoritarian bourgeois morality, helped to make it the first among a number of successful radio serials for Roland and paved the way for later film scripts. Perhaps because she was a playwright rather than a novelist at the time, Roland has never been grouped with Australia’s celebrated women writers of the 1920s and 30s, such as Miles Franklin, Eleanor Dark and Katharine Susannah Prichard. Roland was, however, engaged in a burgeoning cosmopolitan print-culture that extended well beyond those years as well as Australian borders. (Author's introduction)

Turn of the Century John McCallum , 2009 single work criticism
— Appears in: Belonging : Australian Playwriting in the 20th Century 2009; (p. 1-22)
An Interview with Betty Roland Nicole Moore (interviewer), 2007 single work interview
— Appears in: Southerly , vol. 67 no. 1-2 2007; (p. 362-376)
Rattling the Manacles : Genre and Nationalism in the Neglected Plays of the Campbell Howard Collection, 1920-1955 John McCallum , 2002 single work criticism
— Appears in: 'Unemployed at Last!' : Essays on Australian Literature to 2002 for Julian Croft 2002; (p. 86-104)
McCallum draws attention to a number of neglected plays of the 1920s-1950s in the Howard Collection and discusses the reasons why they were neglected unlike, for instance, the plays of Louis Esson. He argues that many of the best Campbell Howard plays didn't fit into the standard history of Australian drama. However, many skillful and professional playwrights whose scripts Howard collected were trying to write for the commercial theatre, and, a nationalist theatre lacking, wrote genre plays, "mostly realistic melodramas, thrillers and drawing room comedies" - the truly neglected Australian plays. Focussing on the sub-genres of bush realist melodrama, station dramas, family sagas, and country town comedies and dramas, McCallum's essay looks at a number of these plays, and at the interaction between genre and the goals of the nationalists.
Into the Fray : Women and War Susan Pfisterer , Carolyn Pickett , 1999 single work criticism
— Appears in: Playing with Ideas : Australian Women Playwrights from the Suffragettes to the Sixties 1999; (p. 128-162)
Uneven Classic David Matthews , 1985 single work review
— Appears in: The Adelaide Review , November no. 19 1985; (p. 18)

— Review of The Touch of Silk Betty M. Davies , 1928 single work drama
Melbourne Theatres Caleb Mortimer , 1929 single work review
— Appears in: The Home , 2 January vol. 10 no. 1 1929; (p. 18)

— Review of The Touch of Silk Betty M. Davies , 1928 single work drama
Four Plays by Australians Joan Morgan , 1942 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Quarterly , vol. 14 no. 4 1942; (p. 110-111)

— Review of Red Sky at Morning : A Play in Three Acts Dymphna Cusack , 1935 single work drama ; Daybreak : A Play in Three Acts Catherine Shepherd , 1938 single work drama ; Interval : A Play in Three Acts Sumner Locke Elliott , 1942 single work drama ; The Touch of Silk Betty M. Davies , 1928 single work drama
Six Plays 1942 single work review
— Appears in: The Bulletin , 23 September vol. 63 no. 3267 1942; (p. 2)

— Review of The Touch of Silk Betty M. Davies , 1928 single work drama
To-Day on the British Stage 1943 single work review
— Appears in: The Times Literary Supplement , 20 February 1943; (p. 94)

— Review of The Touch of Silk Betty M. Davies , 1928 single work drama
Rattling the Manacles : Genre and Nationalism in the Neglected Plays of the Campbell Howard Collection, 1920-1955 John McCallum , 2002 single work criticism
— Appears in: 'Unemployed at Last!' : Essays on Australian Literature to 2002 for Julian Croft 2002; (p. 86-104)
McCallum draws attention to a number of neglected plays of the 1920s-1950s in the Howard Collection and discusses the reasons why they were neglected unlike, for instance, the plays of Louis Esson. He argues that many of the best Campbell Howard plays didn't fit into the standard history of Australian drama. However, many skillful and professional playwrights whose scripts Howard collected were trying to write for the commercial theatre, and, a nationalist theatre lacking, wrote genre plays, "mostly realistic melodramas, thrillers and drawing room comedies" - the truly neglected Australian plays. Focussing on the sub-genres of bush realist melodrama, station dramas, family sagas, and country town comedies and dramas, McCallum's essay looks at a number of these plays, and at the interaction between genre and the goals of the nationalists.
Australian Literature Society [Meeting Report] 1930 single work column adventure
— Appears in: All About Books , 18 August vol. 2 no. 8 1930; (p. 198)
Palmer denies the rumour that Franklin is Brent of Bin-Bin, Leckie reviews A Touch of Silk and Derham concludes that women 'are not natural artists'.
Four Australian Women Playwrights Iris O'Loughlin , Marjorie Fitzgerald , Mona Brand , Nancy Wills , 1995 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Feminist Studies , no. 21 1995; (p. 129-152)
Four Australian women playwrights discuss aspects of their work. Includes extracts from plays performed at the conference.
An Interview with Betty Roland Nicole Moore (interviewer), 2007 single work interview
— Appears in: Southerly , vol. 67 no. 1-2 2007; (p. 362-376)
Turn of the Century John McCallum , 2009 single work criticism
— Appears in: Belonging : Australian Playwriting in the 20th Century 2009; (p. 1-22)
Last amended 2 May 2019 13:46:30
X