A New Map of Australia: The Plays of David Williamson


David Williamson is the writer to whom the nation turned to tell the stories of Gallipoli and Phar Lap. He is our best known and best respected playwright, and yet many critics seem to see him as an example of the commercialization of a once promising talent. Although he was the last to arrive in the exciting 'New Wave' (The Last New Wave) of Australian playwrights in the late sixties and early seventies, he became the leader of it, and he endured, and became part of the new establishment, when many of his fellow writers petered out. He was the most shocking, the most ribald, the most energetic writer of the new satirical vernacular comedy. But he became, for many reviewers (such as those who wrote in the pages of the magazine Theatre Australia) the villainous representative of a reactionary dramatic naturalism which the vernacular comedy had hoped to leave behind. Of all Australian playwrights Williamson is the one who appeals the most to the supposed democratic popular audience (with plays such as The Club and films such as Phar Lap). And yet in the politics of Australian theatre and dramatic criticism he is seen as a conservative figure.

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Published 1 May 1984 in Volume 11 No. 3. Subjects: Australian theatre, Critical reception, Literary career, Writer's recognition & popularity, David Williamson.

Cite as: McCallum, John. ‘A New Map of Australia: The Plays of David Williamson.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 11, no. 3, 1984, doi: 10.20314/als.6145f11c45.