Five months of theatre-going in 1974

Warning: This may be of no interest to anyone on earth but me.

I’m currently going through old diaries and probably throwing them all out so no one else will have to. In 1974, when I was 27, I attempted to keep a proper day-by-day account. Much of what I wrote is either incomprehensible snippets of conversation, tedious accounts of share-house politics, cringeworthy expressions of twenty-something angst, complaints about work etc. But I made a note of every movie and every piece of live theatre I went to.

Between 1 June and 1 November that year I saw 26 movies, only two or three of them on TV, ranging from a Polish movie named Blanche (which I loved) via Tim Burstall’s Petersen (which I loathed) to a double bill of movies by Robynne Murphy and Gillian Armstrong (which I didn’t name, but the Armstrong one was probably One Hundred a Day).

In that same time I went to the theatre the same number of times – including multiple visits to more than one show. Here’s a list, that gives some idea of the liveliness of the theatre scene in Sydney at that time (with added extra trips to Melbourne and Brisbane), in the order in which I saw them:

  • Fair Go at the Q Theatre in Sydney (no other information)
  • Jack Hibberd, Peggy Sue at the Pram Factory in Melbourne
  • Rivka Hartman, The Psychiatrist and The Trapped Projectionist at La Mama, also in Melbourne
  • Shakespeare’s Pericles at the Melbourne Theatre Company
  • John Power, The Last of the Knucklemen at the Opera House
  • Barry Humphries, At Least You Can Say You’ve Seen It (twice)
  • Chekhov, The Seagull (the memory of which has been obliterated by the more recent production with Cate Blanchett and a dreadfully understated Noah Taylor at the Belvoir Street Theatre)
  • Joseph’s Troubles and Flight into Egypt, mediaeval Mystery Plays, probably at Sydney University
  • My Shadow and Me, a black and white minstrel show at NIDA, which I’m glad to report I hated
  • Pinter, Old Times, directed by Victor Emeljanow, which blew me away
  • Willy Young (now William Yang), Quartet, at Old Nimrod (now Griffin Theatre)
  • Brecht, A Man’s a Man, Sydney University Dramatic Society
  • Jack Hibberd, A Stretch of the Imagination at La Boite in Brisbane
  • Muriel (Alan Simpson, directed by Rex Cramphorne) at Jane Street Theatre (three times: I loved it)
  • David Lord, Well Hung – no memory at all
  • Dorothy Hewett, The Tatty Hollow Story, a reading at – I think – the Old Nimrod
  • Tim Gooding, A Bent Repose – again, no memory at all
  • Grant’s Movie at the Old Nimrod (I think), starring Jude Kuring, but I can’t find it on the internet to tell me who wrote or directed it.
  • The River Jordan by Michael Byrnes at the Pram Factory. It seems to be the only play he wrote, and I loved it
  • Kookaburra, Michael Cove at New Nimrod, starring 12 year old Simon Burke
  • The Chapel Perilous at the Opera House, directed by George Whaley

All that in five months, while working fulltime. Does anyone go to the theatre that much these days? Can any twenty-something afford it?

2 responses to “Five months of theatre-going in 1974

  1. A good list, Jonathan, and of great interest to me!

    What you may not know is that I was performing in Rivka Hartman’s show at La Mama. I did a little entr’acte (bearded and in drag, so maybe you didn’t know it was me) between the two one act plays.

    And I worked backstage as an ASM on George Whaley’s Chapel Perilous when he did it for Melbourne Uni Student Theatre.

    So we should have met years earlier than we actually did.

    All the best, and greetings from Amsterdam.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. We almost certainly met, technically, at La Mama, Richard, because I hung around for the notes after the preview – I was visiting Rivka at the time. It’s a small world after all. I hope spring in Amsterdam is beautiful. we keep having bursts of rain here, though nothing can dampen the general joy at having our local guy become PM.


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