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Sky Without Birds single work   drama   - Three acts
Issue Details: First known date: 1950... 1950 Sky Without Birds
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

Set in the Post Office of the fictional town of Koorora a few years after the end of World War II. A desert settlement of some 67 people that exists mainly to support the building of the Trans-Australian Railway line (which crossed the Nullarbor Plain from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta), Koorora typifies the railway workers' joke that their trains 'stop at nothing.' The title is a reference to the local belief that birds, apart from the occasional crow, won't fly over or settle in Koorora because it too far from water.

Heinrich (Heine) Schafer is the town's new railway mechanic. He is also a new Australian - a German Jew who spent much of the war imprisoned by the Nazis. His arrival in the town creates new tensions - inflaming both anti-German and anti-semetic hatred among some locals and a romantic passion with the wife of Rick O'Hara, the locomotive engineer who befriends him. Nereai reminds Heine of his dead wife. Rick, a free-thinking socialist and unionist, is already questioning his worth as a husband to the much younger Nereai, and believes in his wife's right to determining her own choices. Their decision is not, however, left to them alone. The tensions between townsfolk over the impacts of Heine's presence are a vehicle for questioning and transforming the status quo in families and marriages. The play describes some of the worst traits of racist and xenophobic Australian society of the time.

The scenes, as determined in the manuscript from the Hanger Collection, in the Fryer Library at The University of Queensland, are:

Act 1

Scene 1: Post Office in the settlement of Koorora, Nullarbor Desert, South Australia.

Scene 2: One month later

Act 2

Scene 1: One month later

Scene 2: One month later

The version published in Plays of the 50s [Volume One] includes a third act, the scenes of which are:

Act 3

Scene 1: The following morning

Scene 2: The same morning


Characters

PEG 32, postmaster's wife and Nereia's sister

RICK 40

HEINRICH 34

MAJOR HARRY ROBINSON postmaster, and former 'Kipling soldier'

BARTLEY 50, owner of the general store and a 'miserable whining tyrant' 

NEREIA 22 

JUMBO TOLLIS 55, laconic, easy, philosophic - a Lawson bushman

CLIFFIE ROYCE 20, a big hansome lout

PETER BARTLEY 18, under his father's thumb

Exhibitions

10785765
11308767
13448375

Adaptations

form y separately published work icon Sky Without Birds Oriel Gray , 1952 (Manuscript version)9566312 9566306 1952 single work radio play

Set in the Post Office of the fictional town of Koorora a few years after the end of World War II. A desert settlement of some 67 people that exists mainly to support the building of the Trans-Australian Railway line (which crossed the Nullarbor Plain from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta), Koorora typifies the railway workers' joke that their trains 'stop at nothing.'

Heinrich (Heine) Schafer is the town's new railway mechanic. He is also a new Australian - a German Jew who spent much of the war imprisoned by the Nazis. His arrival in the town creates new tensions - inflaming both anti-German and anti-semetic hatred among some locals and a romantic passion with the wife of Rick O'Hara, the locomotive engineer who befriends him. Nereai reminds Heine of his dead wife. Rick, a free-thinking socialist and unionist, is already questioning his worth as a husband to the much younger Nereai, and believes in his wife's right to determining her own choices. Their decision is not, however, left to them alone. The tensions between townsfolk over the impacts of Heine's presence are a vehicle for questioning and transforming the status quo in families and marriages. The play describes some of the worst traits of racist and xenophobic Australian society of the time.


Characters

PEG 32, postmaster's wife and Nereia's sister

RICK 40

HEINRICH 34

MAJOR HARRY ROBINSON postmaster, and former 'Kipling soldier'

BARTLEY 50, owner of the general store and a 'miserable whining tyrant' 

NEREIA 22 

JUMBO TOLLIS 55, laconic, easy, philosophic - a Lawson bushman

CLIFFIE ROYCE 20, a big hansome lout

PETER BARTLEY 18, under his father's thumb

Notes

  • The manuscript held at the Fryer Library does not include the third act.
  • 'Sky Without Birds was attended by ASIO who had files on all the performers and crew.' (Source: New Theatre History website)

Affiliation Notes

  • This play has been selected for the Australian Drama Archive project.

Production Details

  • 1952 : Sydney New Theatre. Premiere opened the Drama Festival of the Youth Carnival for Peace and Friendship. Friday, Saturday, Sunday from 22 March - 4 April.

    • Producer Jerome Levy. 
    • Costume Designer Norma Disher.
    • Set Designer Les Tanner. 
    • Stage Managers Stanley Bathgate, Evelyn Docker. 
    • Cast incl. Tom Posa (Heinrich), John Evans (Rick), Shirley Keane (Peg), Reginald Lye (Jumbo), Laurence Booth, Nan Davies, William Flaus, David Futcher, Laurence Smith.

    1952 : ABC Radio. Sydney. 25 August.

    • Producer Paul O'Loughlin. 

    1952 : Adelaide New Theatre. 5 Sep. and 12 - 13 Sep.

    • Producer Bryce Stewart.
    • Cast Ron Richardson (Heinrich), Faye Cartwright, Alan Clisby, Don Porter, Yvonne Geary, Toy Jury, Fred Bevan, Peter Kinnaine, David Bryn.

    1952 : Brisbane New Theatre. 10 - 11 Oct.

    1983 : Nimrod Reading Series, Downstairs Theatre. Surry Hill, NSW. 30 Oct. 

    • 'Classical Australia Plays: 1st Series'.

    1991 : NSW University Theatrical Society (NUTS). 24, 26-27 Sep. and 15 - 18 Oct.

    • Director David John Latham.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

      1950 .
      Description: Manuscript
      (Manuscript) assertion

      Holdings

      Held at: University of New England Dixson Library
      Location: Campbell Howard Collection
      .
      Description: Playscript

      Holdings

      Held at: University of Queensland University of Queensland Library Fryer Library
      Location: The Hanger Collection of Australian Playscripts
      Local Id: H0695

Works about this Work

Plays of the '50s, Volume 1 [Book Review] Jasna Novakovic , 2008 single work review
— Appears in: Australasian Drama Studies , October no. 53 2008; (p. 225-228)

— Review of Plays of the 50s [Volume One] 2007 anthology drama ; Sky Without Birds Oriel Gray , 1950 single work drama
Plays And Players 1952 single work advertisement
— Appears in: The Sun , 28 November 28 Nov 1952; (p. 12)
Contrast In Plays 1952 single work review
— Appears in: The News [Adelaide] , 15 September vol. 59 no. 9080 1952;

— Review of Sky Without Birds Oriel Gray , 1950 single work drama

'Not only was 'Prunella a sensible choice for presentation by the Elder Conservatorium Drama Group but, , mostly to the producer's credit, there was much to surprise and delight.' (Introduction)

Greek Singer With S.A. Symphony Orchestra 1952 single work advertisement
— Appears in: The Advertiser , 6 September 1952; (p. 8)
Contrasting Types In Australian Play 1952 single work review
— Appears in: The Advertiser [Adelaide] , 13 September 1952; (p. 5)

— Review of Sky Without Birds Oriel Gray , 1950 single work drama
Drama In Sydney Leslie Rees , 1952 single work review
— Appears in: Australian Quarterly , June vol. 24 no. 2 1952; (p. 92-94)

— Review of Sky Without Birds Oriel Gray , 1950 single work drama
Sky Without Birds Opens Carnival Drama Festival 1952 single work review
— Appears in: Tribune , 19 March no. 732 1952; (p. 11)

— Review of Sky Without Birds Oriel Gray , 1950 single work drama
Plays of the '50s, Volume 1 [Book Review] Jasna Novakovic , 2008 single work review
— Appears in: Australasian Drama Studies , October no. 53 2008; (p. 225-228)

— Review of Plays of the 50s [Volume One] 2007 anthology drama ; Sky Without Birds Oriel Gray , 1950 single work drama
Contrasting Types In Australian Play 1952 single work review
— Appears in: The Advertiser [Adelaide] , 13 September 1952; (p. 5)

— Review of Sky Without Birds Oriel Gray , 1950 single work drama
Contrast In Plays 1952 single work review
— Appears in: The News [Adelaide] , 15 September vol. 59 no. 9080 1952;

— Review of Sky Without Birds Oriel Gray , 1950 single work drama

'Not only was 'Prunella a sensible choice for presentation by the Elder Conservatorium Drama Group but, , mostly to the producer's credit, there was much to surprise and delight.' (Introduction)

Greek Singer With S.A. Symphony Orchestra 1952 single work advertisement
— Appears in: The Advertiser , 6 September 1952; (p. 8)
Plays And Players 1952 single work advertisement
— Appears in: The Sun , 28 November 28 Nov 1952; (p. 12)
Last amended 26 Feb 2018 09:17:42
Settings:
  • Nullarbor area (Western Australia), Southeast Western Australia, Western Australia,
  • 1948-1950
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