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

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.

Introduction to The Floating World l Reflecting on classic Australian theatre

Katharine Brisbane reads her introduction to The Floating World, by John Romeril. Katharine, with her husband Philip Parsons, founded Currency Press, and was also a theatre critic for 21 years. Over the years she has published extensively on the history of Australian theatre, as well as receiving many awards for service to the performing arts.

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.

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