John Grant, a young Englishman, teaches in Tiboonda, a tiny railway junction on the far western plains of New South Wales. He sets off to spend his summer vacation in Sydney but doesn't make it beyond Bundanyabba, a nearby mining town known as 'the Yabba'. Stranded in town after losing all his money in a two-up game, he finds himself engulfed by the Yabba's claustrophobic, nightmarish, beer-fuelled stupor, an atmosphere compounded of repressed sexuality, squalid violence, and the sinister mateship of the locals. After being sexually assaulted by the town's alcoholic doctor, he attempts to hitchhike out of the town but is brought back by a truckie. In anger, he tries to shoot the doctor but ends up only shooting himself. After discharging himself from the hospital, Grant takes the train back to Tiboonda, resigned to another year of teaching.
'G’day. Welcome to the Yabba. Just passing through?
'It’s the best little town in the world. Things a bit grim? Chin up.
'John Grant is well-read, but an outback misadventure strands him—cashless and jobless—in a harsh and remote Aussie outpost, Bundanyabba.
'So, he makes new ‘mates’: they’re quick with a drink, but with every scull a dark violence lurches forward. Are these blokes fair dinkum, or is there something more sinister at the heart of this little Aussie town?
'On our Beckett Theatre stage, the entire world of Wake in Fright is conjured by the always-evocative Zahra Newman (The Book of Mormon) accompanied by a sonic assault from art-electronica band, friendships. Under the direction of Declan Greene, Kenneth Cook’s iconic work of Australian Gothic horror is felt in the flesh. Bring sunscreen, buy a beer and wear your ear plugs.
'Once we pierce the Yabba’s ocker veneer, you better be ready for the explosive brutality pent up inside.'
Source: Malthouse Theatre.
'In recent years, Wake in Fright (1971) has cemented its reputation as one of the most important Australian films. But for decades after its release it was almost impossible to find a version to watch.' (Introduction)
'Australian horror films have always had a unique fascination with the continent’s landscape. Though the genre has evolved from the Ozploitation era into more complex territory, it remains moulded by the terra nullius myth and a colonial sense of disconnection from the land. '
'In the middle of the nineteenth century, Marcus Clarke famously described the Australian outback as displaying a “Weird Melancholy” (qtd. in Gelder 116). The strange sights, sounds, and experiences of Australia’s rural locations made them ripe for the development of the European genre of the Gothic in a new location, a mutation which has continued over the past two centuries. But what does it mean for Australia’s Gothic landscapes to be associated with the affective qualities of the melancholy? And more particularly, how and why does this Gothic effect (and affect) appear in the most accessible Gothic media of the twenty-first century, the television series? Two recent Australian television adaptations, Wake in Fright (2017, dir. Kriv Stenders) and Mystery Road (2018, dir. Rachel Perkins) provoke us to ask the question: how does their pictorial representation of the Australian outback and its inhabitants overtly express rage and its close ties to melancholia, shame and violence? More particularly, I argue that in both series this rage is turned inwards rather than outwards; rage is turned into melancholy and thus to self-destruction – which constructs an allegory for the malaise of our contemporary nation. However, here the two series differ. While Wake in Fright posits this as a never-ending narrative, in a true Freudian model of melancholics who fail to resolve or attend to their trauma, Mystery Road is more positive in its positioning, allowing the themes of apology and recognition to appear, both necessary for reparation and forward movement.'
Source: Author's introduction.