Not in Print: playwrights off script - on inspiration, process and theatre itself

’Australia in 50 Plays’: In conversation with Julian Meyrick

In this episode of Not in Print Caitlin speaks with Julian Meyrick. 

Julian Meyrick is Professor of Creative Industries at Griffith University and an Honorary Fellow at Deakin University. He has directed award-winning productions at Melbourne Theatre Company, Griffin, Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Workers Theatre and Kick House Theatre and was Associate Director and Literary Advisor at Melbourne Theatre Company until 2007.

In this podcast Julian discusses his most recent book, 'Australia in 50 Plays', published by Currency Press and launched at the inaugural Australian Playwrights’ Festival in March this year.

Grab a copy of the book here:


Music by Grace Turner 


A Town Named War Boy

"We hit Cairo like a train!... Every dirty little alley, every dusty back room bar. The pyramids are marvellous, but I could spend the rest of my days quite happily in the arms of your temptation."

Inspired by The State Library of New South Wales' jaw-dropping collection of World War I diaries and letters, A Town Named War Boy explores both the events of war and the impact it has upon soldiers and their families. Written with insight, humour and sensitivity, Ross Mueller's moving play brings the ANZAC legend to life. 

Introduction to Brumby Innes and Bid Me to Love - Ric Throssel

Alana Valentine—one of Australia’s most renowned and respected playwrights, whose work includes Parramatta Girls, Eyes to the Floor, Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah, Grounded and Cyberbile—reads the preface to the double edition of Brumby Innes and Bid Me to Love, two plays written by another of Australia’s literary treasures, Katharine Susannah Prichard. The introduction was written by Prichard's son, Ric Throssell.

A little bit about Katharine Susannah Prichard

Prichard was born in Levuka, Fiji, where her father was editor of the Fiji Times. She matriculated from South Melbourne College and worked briefly as a governess. She later taught in Melbourne studying English literature at night.

In 1908 she travelled to London, working as a freelance journalist for the Melbourne Herald and, on her return, as the social editor of the Herald's women's page. In 1912 she left for England again to pursue a career as a writer and published two novels, The Pioneers and Windlestraws. She met the Australian Victoria Cross winner, Captain Hugo Throssell while away and in 1919 she married him and moved to Western Australia. Already a committed Communist in 1920, she was a founding member of the Communist Party of Australia. In 1922 her only son Ric Throssell was born. While she was on a trip to the Soviet Union in 1933 Hugo Throssell committed suicide.

From the 1920s until her death she lived at Greenmount, Western Australia, earning her living as a writer of novels, short stories and plays. Her novels include Black Opal; Working Bullocks; The Wild Oats of Han; Coonardoo; Haxby's Circus; Intimate Strangers; and the goldfields trilogy The Roaring Nineties, Golden Miles and Winged Seeds. Prichard was a member of the Communist Party of Australia until her death, and her political concerns were reflected in most of her published work. Her novels were published throughout the world and translated into numerous languages. In 1951 she was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

A few words about Brumby Innes and Bid Me to Love

Written in the 1920s, Brumby Innes confronts the turbulent relations between the sexes and the races in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia. It is published with another Prichard play from the 1920s, Bid Me To Love which, by contrast, is set among the fashionable rich in the lush hills outside Perth.

Norm & Ahmed: Race prejudice is a profoundly irrational force l Australian theatre classics

In Norm and Ahmed a rather ocker, white Australian male encounters a well-mannered Pakistani student with revolutionary ambitions on a Sydney street at midnight. The exploration of alienation in this play remained a common theme in Buzo’s work, with a tireless commitment to reflecting the true nature of Australian society.


Alex Buzo was born in Sydney and educated at the University of NSW. In the late 1960s his early plays Norm and Ahmed, Rooted and The Front Room Boys pioneered a revival of Australian theatre. Macquarie and other historical plays such as Big River and Pacific Union helped to popularise the themes of our individual and national maturity. Buzo's books Tautology, The Longest Game, The Young Person's Guide to the Theatre and A Dictionary of the Almost Obvious confirm his reputation as an important recorder of the modern Australian idiom.

In 2005 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of New South Wales for his contribution to Australian literature. And following his death in 2006, his daughter Emma founded The Alex Buzo Company, which was the first arts organisation in Australia to produce, promote and perpetuate the work of a single Australian writer. Today, Emma Buzo is here to discuss what is, perhaps, her father’s most famous work, Norm and Ahmed, which she loves deeply and also directed for The Alex Buzo Company in 2007.

Wary Asians on a Theme: Dramatising in the Near North l Australian theatre in Asia

Toby Leon reads an article Alex Buzo wrote for Quadrant Magazine in 2004. It’s called ‘Wary Asians on a Theme: Dramatising in the Near North’ and unpacks the cultural complexities that Buzo encountered when presenting his work in Asia - from India, to Malaysia and Indonesia too - seeing the reactions from audiences, reading local critics’ appraisals of his plays, listening to the directors’ choices about his characters motivation and truth, then trying to make those same choices himself when he directed his play Pacific Union in Jakarta. And of course the piece is brimming with Alex’s insight and humour, both just as sharp as each other.


Alex Buzo was born in Sydney and educated at the University of NSW. In the late 1960s his early plays Norm and AhmedRooted and The Front Room Boys pioneered a revival of Australian theatre.Macquarie and other historical plays such as Big River and Pacific Union helped to popularise the themes of our individual and national maturity. Buzo's books TautologyThe Longest GameThe Young Person's Guide to the Theatre and A Dictionary of the Almost Obvious confirm his reputation as an important recorder of the modern Australian idiom.

The Secret River: Our history is contested space l Classic Australian theatre

William Thornhill: Born into brutal poverty in London in the late 18th century and transported to the Colony of New South Wales for theft in 1806. After earning his freedom he brings his wife and children to the Hawkesbury River where they ‘take up’ 100 acres of land, only to discover that it’s not theirs to take.


Andrew Bovell writes for the stage, television and film. In 1992 he wrote the original screenplay for Strictly Ballroom and in 2001 he went on to adapt his stage play Speaking in Tongues in to the feature film, Lantana. The film premiered at the Sydney Film Festival in 2001 and went on to screen at numerous international film festivals winning many awards. Most recently Andrew adapted John Le Carre’s novel A Most Wanted Man.

His theatre credits include Scenes from a Separation (with Hannie Rayson); Speaking in Tongues, which premiered at Griffin Theatre in 1996 and has had over 50 other productions worldwide; Holy Day, which won the Louis Esson Prize for Drama at the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards and the AWGIE Award for Best Stage Play (2002); and When the Rain Stops Falling, which won Queensland and Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards for Best Play, the Adelaide Critics Circle Individual Award, Sydney Theatre Award for Best New Australian Work and 3 Greenroom Awards including Best New Writing for the Australian Stage.

Introduction to Shafana & Aunt Sarrinah l On the politics of Australian theatre

Dr. Christina Ho reads her introduction to Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah. It’s called Creating Identity in a Hostile World. Dr. Ho researches migration, multiculturalism and the politics of diversity, focusing particularly on the experiences of Muslim Australians and the Chinese diaspora.

Introduction to Radiance l Classic Australian theatre

Louis Nowra reads his introduction to his play, Radiance. It’s called Women on the Mud Flats and it charts the journey of the work from a single image, into the shape of a story, to the premiere production and beyond. But this isn’t just a recount of the tale. If you're a believer in fate, you will see that Radiance is a story that was destined to be told.


Louis Nowra is one of Australia’s most successful writers. He has penned novels, crafted film scripts, authored two memoirs and worked as a librettist, but he is perhaps best known for his plays. Since the early 1970s he has created over 30 stories for the stage; several of them have earned a rightful place in the Australian dramatic canon, and our hearts. They include Summer of the AliensCosiThe Golden Age, The Temple and Albert Names Edward.

Neighbourhood Watch: hope, death and pets l Australian theatre - comedy

It’s a classic odd-couple story. Meet Ana—a battle hardened Hungarian-Australian veteran of the twentieth century. Catherine is her neighbour: twenty-something and waiting for a better world. Can their unlikely friendship outlive the colossal forces of history, the inevitability of death, and a trip to the mall to see Mamma Mia?


Lally Katz is one of Australia’s most intriguing playwrights. She is also one of the country’s most performed playwrights. A graduate of the University of Melbourne, Lally also studied playwriting at London’s Royal Court Theatre. Her plays include Frankenstein, The Black Swan of Trespass, The Eisteddfod, Criminology and Goodbye New York, Goodbye Heart. Her 2009 play, Goodbye Vaudeville Charlie Mudd, received the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. A Golem Story won the same award in 2012. Other awards include several Green Room and Melbourne Fringe Awards, as well as a New York International Fringe Festival Producer’s Choice Award.

Jump for Jordan: caught between cultures l Award-winning Australian theatre

Aspiring archaeologist, Sophie, left home when she was 20, much to the shame of her traditional Jordanian mother. Years later, losing sleep and petrified by the judgement of her visiting ‘mad Arab’ Aunty Azza, Sophie's forced to lie about her life, her career and the existence of her Aussie partner. Worst of all is the fear that she’s also lying to herself.


Donna Abela served her playwriting apprenticeship at Powerhouse Youth Theatre, a company she co-founded in 1987 in Sydney’s culturally diverse western suburbs. Donna worked continuously with PYT for the next seventeen years as it consolidated its practice of community collaboration.

She has worked extensively as a dramaturge and script assessor for various theatre companies and organisations, including the Australian Writers' Guild and the Australian National Playwrights' Centre. Donna also teaches writing, and has lectured in scriptwriting at Wesley Institute since 1991.

Over her career, Donna has written more than 30 stage and radio plays for audiences of all ages. Credits include: A Cleansing Force, Olympia and Phoung, Spirit, The Greatest Show On Earth, The Rood Screen, The Daphne Massacre and Mrs Macquarie’s Cello.

Rainbow’s End: What’s the definition of a hero? l Thought-provoking Australian theatre

Set in the 1950s on the fringe of a country town, Rainbow’s End is a thought-provoking, often hilarious and emotionally powerful snapshot of a Koori family - Nan Dear, her daughter Gladys and Gladys’ daughter Dolly; it dramatises their struggle for decent housing, meaningful education, jobs and community acceptance.


Jane Harrison is an indigenous Australian writer and playwright. A descendant of the Muruwari people of New South Wales, from the area around Bourke and Brewarrina, Harrison grew up in the Victorian Dandenongs with her mother and sister. She began her career as an advertising copywriter, before beginning work as a writer with the Ilbijerri Theatre Company. In the late 90s, Harrison was commissioned by Ilbijerri to write Stolen, about the Stolen Generations. The play premiered in ‘98, and was followed by seven annual seasons in Melbourne, plus extensive national and international tours.

Don’s Party: the way we were l Classic Australian theatre

Election night 1969: Don and Kath hope for a change of government and give a party to watch the results. But as the tide turns against Labor, faded ideals and disappointed hopes begin to reveal themselves. This brilliant satire examines a society on the threshold of emerging from a generation of comfortable, conservative political and social values.


David Williamson is Australia’s best known and most widely performed playwright. He was the first person outside Britain to receive the George Devine Award (for The Removalists) and the awards kept coming. They include: twelve AWGIE Awards; five Australian Film Institute Awards for Best Screenplay; The United Nations Association of Australian Media Peace Award in 1996; and in 2005, the Richard Lane Award for services to the Australian Writers’ Guild. David has also received four honorary doctorates and been made an Officer of the Order of Australia. His prodigious output for the stage includes The Removalists, The Department, The Club, Travelling North, Brilliant Lies and Dead White Males.

Preface to Don’s Party l Reflecting on classic Australian theatre

Toby Leon reads H.G. Kippax’s preface to Don’s Party. From the mid-1960s on, Kippax was the authoritative critic at the Sydney Morning Herald and is said to have spotted the talent of the young John Bell, Robyn Nevin, Mel Gibson, Judy Davis and... David Williamson.

The Floating World: shipped over the edge l Classic Australian theatre

Les and Irene celebrate their wedding anniversary by setting sail on the Women’s Weekly Cherry Blossom Cruise. But amongst the sun hats and piña coladas Les, a former WWII prisoner of war, finds himself confronted by old diggers, enemies and tormented memories. As the cruise ship floats further from home, Les’ grip on reality floats away too.


John Romeril was born in Melbourne in 1945 and wrote his first plays while at Monash University, including Chicago, Chicago. He has worked extensively in theatre and film over the years, including dramaturgical work—often with young writers—and as Playwright-in-Residence with several theatre companies and tertiary institutions

Romeril helped found the Australian Performing Group in 1970, and until it wound—up in 1981 the first performances of his plays were usually at the Pram Factory in Melbourne. Examples include Mrs Thally F, Bastardy and The Golden Holden.

The Seed: How well do you know your family? l Award-winning Australian theatre

Meet Rose Maloney. Her dad went to Vietnam. Her grandfather is ex-IRA. Today's their collective birthday. From this intimate reunion, a silent family battle opens up, becoming a national story about finding new life amongst the rubble of old wars.


As an actor Kate Mulvany has played lead roles with several major Australian theatre companies as well as appearing on TV and in film. As a writer, her plays include The Web, Blood and Bone (winner of Naked Theatre Company’s “Write Now"! Award), The Danger Age, which was shortlisted for the STC's Patrick White Playwrights Award, Masquerade, an adaptation of Kit William's classic children's tale, which featured at the 2015 Sydney Festival, and several other adaptations of classic works.

The Making of a Great Play l Reflecting on award-winning Australian theatre

Eamon Flack reads his foreword to The Seed, by Kate Mulvany. It’s called The Making of a Great Play, and this is something Eamon knows a lot about. He's worked extensively in theatre companies around the country. He is a writer and director - currently the Artistic Associate at Belvoir - and he has been at the helm of many successful productions.

Cosi: A symphony of operatic madness l Classic Australian theatre

Lewis is a bit of a non-participant in life, but when he takes up an opportunity to direct a play at a mental institution - for a bit of extra cash - he gets much more than he bargained for. He becomes emotionally involved with his actors’ lives as his production lurches forward, and the anti-Vietnam war protests take place in the streets outside.


Louis Nowra is one of Australia’s most successful writers. He has penned novels, crafted film scripts, authored two memoirs and worked as a librettist, but he is perhaps best known for his plays. Since the early 1970s he has created over 30 stories for the stage; several of them have earned a rightful place in the Australian dramatic canon, and our hearts. They include Summer of the AliensRadianceThe Golden Age, The Temple and Albert Names Edward.

The Shoe-horn Sonata: digging up the past l Award-winning Australian theatre

In 1945 Sheila and Bridie were freed from a Japanese POW camp deep in the jungles of Sumatra where thousands of women and children had lived and died virtually forgotten by their own governments. Now, after being separated for half a century, the filming of a television documentary forces them to relive the past, contact the present and question the future.


After working as a solicitor, John Misto changed direction; he decided to become a writer. That career change eventually led to The Shoe-Horn Sonata. It is dense, shocking and poignant - a piece of narrative non-fiction that depicts real life events with a solicitors’ attention to factual detail and a storyteller’s understanding of how emotional truths must be drawn out through narrative construction. The play won the 1995 NSW Premier’s Literary Award, but John was (perhaps) more satisfied that it had rung true for the WWII nurses whose story he was sharing with the world.

Scores to be Settled l Reflections on award-winning Australian theatre

Erin Dewar reads Vera Rado’s introduction to The Shoe-horn Sonata. Rado was one of the many prisoners of war John Misto interviewed when conducting his research for the play. She endured three years in captivity and was moved to tears when she saw John’s play, because her story was finally being recognised.

The Unacknowledged l Reflections on award-winning Australian theatre

Toby Leon reads Jan McCarthy’s foreword to The Shoe-Horn Sonata, which was first performed in 1995 at the Ensemble Theatre in Sydney. Jan McCarthy is a former Director of the Nursing Services Army, Member of the Nurses’ National Memorial Committee and Honorary Colonel - and Representative Honorary Colonel - of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps.

Stories in the Dark: princes, wolf-mothers & singing bones l Award-winning Australian theatre

Tomas, 12, finds himself trapped in a war torn city, separated from his family. He takes refuge in a derelict house with Anna, 16. Every night she tells him folk stories to distract them from the sound of bombs outside, mingling the magic and earthy wisdom of folk tales with the hard-edged story of violence, conflict and the struggle to survive.


Debra Oswald announced to her parents that she was going to be a playwright at twelve years old and she has been sharing stories ever since. Her broad body of work has been seen on screens large and small, watched in darkened theatres across the world, and read by too many people to count. She had early success with her play Dags and continued on with acclaimed works such as The Peach Season, Gary's House, Skate and House on Fire. She was also the creator and head writer for the smash hit television series, Offspring on Channel Ten.

Holding the Man: I’ll see you soon, angel l Award-winning Australian theatre

An adaptation of Timothy Conigrave's landmark book that faithfully captures the fifteen-year relationship between Conigrave and the love of his life, John Caleo. Speaking across generations, sexualities and cultures, this is a heart-wrenchingly honest portrayal of what it means to grow up, how we form relationships, and why we need to love and be loved.


Tommy Murphy is one of Australia’s most beloved playwrights. His original stories, and his adaptations, have been warmly received - both critically and commercially. The adaptation of Timothy Conigrave’s best selling book, Holding the Man, is one of Tommy’s standouts. It won several awards and was presented by some of the country’s biggest theatre companies, playing to packed houses in most Australian capital cities, and travelling overseas to New Zealand, the US and London's West End.

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