Away at 35: Michael Gow’s masterpiece is a reflection of a grieving Australia

Burton, David ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2727-0030 (2021) Away at 35: Michael Gow’s masterpiece is a reflection of a grieving Australia. The Conversation, 25 October 2021. pp. 1-4.

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Abstract

Away by Michael Gow has a prolific production lineage. Since its first staging by Griffin Theatre Company in 1986, the play has become a staple of professional, school and amateur seasons. It propels Gow into the microscopic family of Australian playwrights who have written an 'Australian classic', but it is also quite unlike any other play that shares that title.

The play is sometimes remembered as a small, domestic drama; its scale and ambition often forgotten. Gow sets his play inside a Shakespearean framework, complete with five acts and explicit references to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and King Lear. In addition, there are dance numbers, a comedic interlude with clown-like campers, and a dramatic storm featuring fairies.

Set against the turmoil of the Vietnam War, Away focuses on three sets of parents mourning their children while attempting to enjoy a summer holiday.

English immigrants Vic and Harry are desperately trying to cultivate hope for their teenage son Tom, whose leukaemia is in remission. Jim and Gwen are parents to Meg, hungry to strike out from her abrasive mother. Most devastating is Coral and Ray, who have lost a son to the war.

A summary of the play would make it seem a tragedy, but successful productions of Away are often cited for their tenderness and comedy. To read the script – as countless high school students have – the devastating grief at the heart of the play barely registers. Instead, Gow buries it in subtext, making it an actor’s delight.

But perhaps most interesting, 35 years on, is how remarkably different Gow’s writing was to his peers at the time.


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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Published version made available in accordance with Creative Commons Attribution/No Derivatives License 4.0.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Creative Arts (1 Mar 2019 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Creative Arts (1 Mar 2019 -)
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2021 05:40
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2022 21:31
Uncontrolled Keywords: Michael Gow; Away
Fields of Research (2008): 19 Studies in Creative Arts and Writing > 1904 Performing Arts and Creative Writing > 190402 Creative Writing (incl. Playwriting)
Fields of Research (2020): 36 CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 3604 Performing arts > 360403 Drama, theatre and performance studies
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/43990

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