Many of Australia’s greatest cultural figures – and the innovative theatre and outrageous revues they once produced and performed in – are celebrated in a new book charting the golden time when the University of Sydney became a powerhouse of performance.
The Ripples before the New Wave: Drama at the University of Sydney 1957-63, co-written by Senior Lecturer Dr Laura Ginters from the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies and alumna Robyn Dalton, reveals how students had a bigger influence on the nation’s cultural life than any other single group, creating a new wave of Australian theatre and film in the 1970s.
Among them were budding critics Robert Hughes and Clive James; feminist and writer Germaine Greer; actors John Bell, John Gaden, Maggie Blinco and Arthur Dignam; filmmakers Bruce Beresford and Richard Brennan; columnist and festival director Leo Schofield; writers Ron Blair, Bob Ellis and Kate Cummings; and directors Richard Wherrett and Ken Horler.
It’s as though the artists of the new wave swelled up from nowhere.
“But this underresearched blossoming of artistic activity at the University came when professional, amateur and student theatre shared more of a crossover, before arts funding and formal institutional training led to a defined professional industry.”
Dalton and Ginters interviewed dozens of participants and researched archives, journals and newspapers to tell the story of this generation and the theatre productions, topical revues, music-hall and experimental films they produced.
“Driving it was this fierce rivalry between the Sydney University Dramatic Society – Australia’s oldest theatre company – and the newer Sydney University Players,” Ginters says.
“With so little non-commercial theatre then in Sydney, audiences flocked to see both the Australian – and even world – premieres of significant contemporary European plays.”
Published by Currency Press and extensively illustrated, the new book is a vivid account of the feuds, gossip, ambitions and theatrical accomplishments of a remarkable generation at the University.
Robyn Dalton and Laura Ginters will celebrate the launch of The Ripples before the New Wave: Drama at the University of Sydney 1957-63 on Wednesday, 27 February 2019. The evening will be hosted by Mr Leo Schofield AM and feature special guests and performances. Click here to register.