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

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Burton, David. 2021. "Away at 35: Michael Gow’s masterpiece is a reflection of a grieving Australia." The Conversation. 25 October 2021, pp. 1-4.
Article Title

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

Article CategoryBlog
Authors
AuthorBurton, David
Publication TitleThe Conversation
Journal Citation25 October 2021, pp. 1-4
Number of Pages4
Year2021
Place of PublicationCarlton, Victoria, Australia
Web Address (URL)https://theconversation.com/away-at-35-michael-gows-masterpiece-is-a-reflection-of-a-grieving-australia-168944
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.

KeywordsMichael Gow; Away
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020360403. Drama, theatre and performance studies
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Creative Arts
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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https://research.usq.edu.au/item/q6v7w/away-at-35-michael-gow-s-masterpiece-is-a-reflection-of-a-grieving-australia

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