Before the Doll. "Upstaged: Australian Women Dramatists in the Limelight at Last" by Michelle Arrow. [review]
This book aims to reinstate women at the forefront of Australian drama writing from the 1930s to the 1960s.The fact that there was a flourishing Australian drama scene during this period may come as a surprise to those who think that Australian theatre began with Louis Esson, experienced a long hiatus until Ray Lawler's "Summer of the Seventeenth Doll" and reached full renaissance in the work of the APG in Melbourne and Nimrod in Sydney. Arrow is an historian, self-described as 'someone who gets her kicks rummaging through archives'. This is not a book for anyone seeking insights into the dramatic impact of the women's work; there is no passion for performance. Nevertheless, her research is thorough, ranging from ASIO files to extensive New Theatre archives, and she was able to interview a number of her (now elderly) subjects. She appends useful biographical notes on the twenty-one women who fitted her criteria for selection. She succeeds in demonstrating that there was a lively continuum of Australian drama writing in the twentieth century, and in according due recognition to the women who played a central, even dominant, role.