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Playwrights' Advisory Board Competition
Subcategory of Awards Australian Awards
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History

Sponsored by the Playwrights Advisory Board, winning entries were guaranteed publication and production. First prize received £100 and royalties. Plays were accepted from all over Australia and New Zealand.

Winners

1955 joint winner y separately published work icon Summer of the Seventeenth Doll Ray Lawler , 1955 London Sydney : Angus and Robertson , 1957 Z522838 1955 single work drama (taught in 56 units)

'The most famous Australian play and one of the best loved, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll is a tragicomic story of Roo and Barney, two Queensland sugar-cane cutters who go to Melbourne every year during the 'layoff' to live it up with their barmaid girl friends. The title refers to kewpie dolls, tawdry fairground souvenirs, that they brings as gifts and come, in some readings of the play, to represent adolescent dreams in which the characters seem to be permanently trapped. The play tells the story in traditional well-made, realistic form, with effective curtains and an obligatory scene. Its principal appeal – and that of two later plays with which it forms The Doll Trilogy – is the freshness and emotional warmth, even sentimentality, with which it deals with simple virtues of innocence and youthful energy that lie at the heart of the Australian bush legend.

'Ray Lawler’s play confronts that legend with the harsh new reality of modern urban Australia. The 17th year of the canecutters’ arrangement is different. There has been a fight on the canefields and Roo, the tough, heroic, bushman, has arrived with his ego battered and without money. Barney’s girl friend Nancy has left to get married and is replaced by Pearl, who is suspicious of the whole set-up and hopes to trap Barney into marriage. The play charts the inevitable failure of the dream of the layoff, the end of the men’s supremacy as bush heroes and, most poignantly, the betrayal of the idealistic self-sacrifice made by Roo’s girl friend Olive – the most interesting character – to keep the whole thing going. The city emerges victorious, but the emotional tone of the play vindicates the fallen bushman.'

Source: McCallum, John. 'Summer of the Seventeenth Doll.' Companion to Theatre in Australia. Ed. Philip Parson and Victoria Chance. Sydney: Currency Press , 1997: 564-656.

1955 joint winner y separately published work icon The Torrents Oriel Gray , 1955 1950-1955 (Manuscript version)x401285 Z1037495 1955 single work drama

The Torrents is set in a newspaper office on an Australian gold-mining town in the late 19th century. It centres on a woman struggling to be accepted into the world of men.

It also focuses on a young engineer who dreams of improving the land in order to grow trees and crops but his ideas are blocked by the town elders.

1947 winner y separately published work icon The First Joanna : A Play in Three Acts Dorothy Blewett , Melbourne : 1943 (Manuscript version)10930522 10930514 1943 single work drama (taught in 1 units)

In The First Joanna Dorothy Blewett explores Australia's acceptance of its convict heritage, tracing the fictional history of the Deverons, owners of a leading South Australian vineyard. The property, situated near the Onkaparinga River, was established in the early years of the colony by settler Stephen Deveron. The central characters of the play are the Joanna Millay, a young convict woman who becomes the matriarch of the Deverons, and Joanna Deveron, the wife of the second Stephen Deveron - the grandson of the first Joanna and the first Stephen Deveron.

The narrative begins on Joanna's birthday in 1945 and introduces the Deveron family. Joanna has only recently arrived at the vineyard and is still suffering from the effects of several years spent as a prisoner of war in Poland. Joanna and Stephen had married in England shortly before the outbreak of war but were forced apart after she became trapped behind enemy lines. Having led a peripatetic upbringing in Europe Joanna finds the dull monotony of life on the vineyard unbearable and is thinking of returning to Europe. Her love of Stephen is making the decision all the more painful.

When Stephen's maiden aunts give her a chair belonging to their mother, Joanna is at first horrifed by the thought of its staid existence. She at first can't bear think about it, but after discovering within the chair a set of diaries written by the first Joanna she becomes fascinated. The diaries reveal a life of trauma, loss, murder, illegitimacy, and eventually, triumph through love. Through her reading of the diaries the play's dramatic action segues into "interpolated scenes" depicting key moments in the lives of Stephen's forebears during the nineteenth century - 1837, 1849, 1862, 1871, and 1885. The diaries ultimately allow the contemporary Joanna the capacity to imagine a future at the vineyard with the man she truly loves.


In an interview with Coralie Clarke Rees on Sydney ABC radio on 8 March, 1948, Blewett described the play as:

"It's the story of a modern English girl called Joanna who marries an Australian wine-grower and comes to live in his family home in South Australia. There she finds the narrow insistence on family respectability stifling, and she is about to leave to place when she discovers the diary of the first Joanna who built the home and pioneered the vineyard. In it she reads that the woman who established this respectable successful family had been a convict girl from Tasmania. The first Joanna was a vivid courageous person who had lived dangerously. She appeals tat once to the imagination and the loyalty of the second Joanna who had been repelled by the smug legends about the old pioneer: and the young Joanna Becomes proud to belong to a family with such an honourably shady past." 

Characters

1945

STEPHEN DEVERON

MRS COLLINS who “obliges” at Chateau Deveron

JOANNA DEVERON

JOCELYN CUMING Stephen’s second cousin

HALLEY VAN DRUYTEN Captain in the United States Army

EDITHA AND VIOLA DEVERON Stephen’s twin great-aunts, aged 92

JACKSON the chauffeur

1837

SIR BERTRAM TAVENER Governor of a women's jail in Tasmania

LADY CAROLINE TAVENOR his wife

MISS BEATRICE TAVENOR his sister

CAPTAIN JULES SMITH of the British Army, aged 29

STEPHEN DEVERON 1st, aged 22

JOANNA MILLAY the first Joanna, aged 17

1849

STEPHEN aged 34

JOANNA 29

1862

MAJOR JULES SMITH 54

JOANNA 42

STEPHEN 47

Joanna and Stephen's children:

AUGUSTA 20

PHILLIP 14

EDITHA AND VIOLA 10

1871

VIOLA AND EDITH 18

JOANNA 51

1885

JOANNA 64

STEPHEN 69

1945 winner y separately published work icon Sons of the Morning : A Verse Play in Three Acts Catherine Duncan , 1945 (Manuscript version)x400862 Z514382 1945 single work drama
1944 winner form y separately published work icon The Other Side of Sundown Catherine Duncan , Australia : ABC Radio National , 1945 12876906 1945 single work radio play

The eldest son of an Australian family marries a Canadian girl while he is an Empire Air Force trainee. His bride, Jane, must adapt herself to a strange country and a new set of relations.

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