Australian Theatre, Modernism and Patrick White: Governing Culture

Story of the rejection of two Patrick White plays by the Adelaide Festival of Arts in the early 1960s from Denise Varney and Sandra D'Urso.

In the early 1960s the board of governors of the Adelaide Festival of Arts in Australia rejected two Patrick White plays, The Ham Funeral in 1962 and Night on Bald Mountain in 1964.

Australian Theatre, Modernism and Patrick White: Governing Culture (Anthem Press, 2018) documents the scandal that followed the board’s rejections of White’s plays, especially as it acted against the advice of its own drama committee and artistic director on both occasions. Denise Varney and Sandra D’Urso analyze the two events by drawing on the performative behaviour of the board of governors to focus on the question of governance.

They shed new light on the cultural politics that surrounded the rejections, arguing that it represents an instance of executive governance of cultural production, in this case theatre and performance. The central argument of the book is that aesthetic modernism in theatre and drama struggled to achieve visibility and acceptability, and posed a threat to the norms and values of early to mid-twentieth-century Australia. The recent productions indicate that despite the Adelaide Festival’s early hostile rejections, White’s plays endure.

For more information about the book please visit the Anthem Press website.