Spouting in the Colonies. "The Convict Theatres of Early Australia" by Robert Jordan. [review]
Too often as Australians we have preferred our history one-dimensional: "terra nullius", convicts, gold rush, Federation, Gallipoli. Barren land, barren culture: in the grim struggle against tyranny, nature and distance, hardly the place to find artists with the time to create music, dancing, theatre or opera; or mass audiences willing to spend their meagre incomes on such diversions. But you could, even in the earliest days of settlement and at the places of extreme torture. On Christmas Day 1846 on Norfolk Island, a group of convicts got up a play 'in the Lumber Yard' under the nose of Superintendent John Price, the model for the sadistic tyrant Maurice Frere in "For the Term of His Natural Life." Facts like this challenge our understanding about what kind of people convicts were, what pleasure they took in the midst of their oppression, and what was tolerated and even at times encouraged by the authorities.