Ray Lawler was born in Footscray is an actor, producer, and playwright but best known as author of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll.
He was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1981 Queen's New Years Honours List for his services to the performing arts.
Summer of the Seventeenth Doll is credited with changing the direction of modern Australian drama was first performed at the Union Theatre in Melbourne on 28 November 1955. The work remains emblematic: The Doll, as it became known, was a state-of-the-nation play at a crucial time of change.
Lawler left school at 13 and worked in a variety of jobs before joining the National Theatre Company in Melbourne. In 1955 the newly formed Elizabethan Theatre Trust chose his Summer of the Seventeenth Doll for its first staging of an original Australian play. Lawler played the lead in Melbourne (1956); the play's success led to productions in London (1957; with Lawler again in the lead) and New York City (1958), and a film version was made in 1959. Its criticism of Australian cultural stereotypes-combined with a natural style and a language free of cliche-represented a major break with tradition and inspired a new phase of dramatic realism in Australia.
Lawler's other plays include Cradle of Thunder (1949), The Piccadilly Bushman (1959), The Unshaven Cheek (1963), A Breach in the Wall (1967), The Man Who Shot the Albatross (1972), and two additional plays in 'The Doll Trilogy': Kid Stakes (1975) and Other Times (1976). His play Godsend was produced in 1982.
Summer of the Seventeenth Doll
The play, laboriously hand-written in the reading room of the Melbourne Public Library, dramatises the decline of the Australian legend through two canecutters. Roo and Barney arrive in Melbourne's inner-city Carlton, loaded with money, for their 17th consecutive layoff with their two barmaid girlfriends. But after almost two decades of living it up, they discover the world has left them behind.
Summer of the Seventeenth Doll is set in Carlton and details the events of the summer of 1953, in the lives of six central characters. The structure of the play is such that the nature of these characters and their situation and history is not revealed immediately, but rather gradually established as the story unfolds. By the end, the story and all its facets have been indirectly explained.
Symbolic of the cultural nationalism that emerged in Australia after World War II, the play is studied in high schools and often performed by students. With its small cast, it is an easy play to mount and the characters are still instantly recognisable.
❊ Web Links ❊
→ Raymond Lawler
→ Summer of the Seventeenth Doll - hat-archive.com
→ Ray Lawler and the Doll - abc.net.au
→ Aussie classic playwright Ray Lawler almost forgot - theaustralian.com.au
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