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Laughing Murra single work   musical theatre   drama  
Issue Details: First known date: 1921... 1921 Laughing Murra
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

Play with music.

The play begins with a prologue in which a mother gives the germ of the Laughing Murra myth to three children. 'Then follows the play in three short acts. It is a contrast of wills, the will of Mohabie, a tribal chief and the drought-bring North Wind [aka Demon Wind]. Mohabie claims that he is absolute. He defies the Demon Wind the while his people perish for want of yams and water. The Cloud Frog, an invisible entity up aloft, has all the water and will not open up his mouth to let it out.... In a final contest of will power the chief realises that he cannot bring the rain to his people. The Demon Wind in an outburst of cruel gusto calls his "little friend Flame" to his aid. She comes in the picturesque fury of a bush fire... In a re-assembling of the tribe... a debate takes place as to how the Cloud Frog may be made to open his mouth and give the sorely-needed rain.

Mohabie acknowledges his impotence and in compunction is prepared to give his own blood to his thirsty tribe. This sacrifice they will not allow. Instead they bethink themselves that by causing the Clod Frog to laugh he will let the rain out of his mouth. An amusing endeavour to that end follows. All the humourists of the tribe... grimace, posture and disport themselves in one fashion or another to excite the mirth of the cruel withholder of the rain. Gundagai, an old Gum-tree Gin tells him a humorous story... [and eventually] the Cloud Frog actually does laugh. The showers of blessing come, and -all is well!'

The idea behind the attempt to make the Cloud Frog is believed to have come about in response to the character of Laughing Murra, a young woman who kept the spirits of her tribe up through humour during the worst of the drought - even though it 'got on the nerves of the chief.'

[Source: 'An Aboriginal Play.' p. 27]



 

Notes

  • The score included music and songs by Louis Lavater. One of the songs, 'Demon Wind' (sung by George Hulston) is described by Mary Fullerton as 'sufficiently menacing' (p. 27).
  • 'Mrs. Davidson has written a play called Laughing Meerra [sic], based on Australian aboriginal folk lore, the possibilities of which have not so far been exploited' (Corroboree 1.3 December 1921, p.1).
  • The review published in the Theatre Magazine records that prior to the play starting (including the Prologue) a word of explanation was given to the audience by the producer. The reviewer, Mary E. Fullerton writes in this respect:
    The aboriginals of Australia believe that they were originally white and will one day be white again. This paved the way for the presentation of the fantasy without the performers having to resort to burnt cork. The fiction apparently has it that clothing was part and parcel of the blacks' old Eden. Colour, charm of dress and deportment therefore took - in the representation - the place of ugliness and uncouthness (December 1921, p.27).

Production Details

  • 1921: Playhouse Theatre, Melbourne; 31 October.

    • Orchestra Leader Miss Macfie.
    • Cast incl. Joan Davidson (Laughing Murra), J. A. Davidson (Mohabie), Jessie Wilson (The Mother), G. Hulston (Demon Wind), Gundagai (C. Malmgren), Alma Palmer.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

Works about this Work

An Aboriginal Play: 'Laughing Murra' Mary E. Fullerton , 1921 single work review
— Appears in: The Theatre Magazine , December 1921; (p. 27)

— Review of Laughing Murra E. C. Davidson , 1921 single work musical theatre drama
An Aboriginal Play: 'Laughing Murra' Mary E. Fullerton , 1921 single work review
— Appears in: The Theatre Magazine , December 1921; (p. 27)

— Review of Laughing Murra E. C. Davidson , 1921 single work musical theatre drama
Last amended 1 Feb 2018 11:14:19
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