summer of the seventeenth doll opens thursday!

How excitement! This revival, the national touring production of Ray Lawler’s classic 1950’s play, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, directed by Neil Armfield and starring Robyn Nevin, with whom I once shared the stage in Noosa, opens at QPAC in Brisbane on Thursday.

QTC’s season opener is one of Australia’s most iconic, pivotal plays; a pillar of Australian theatre and a story which has been lauded for 50 years. “Times have changed but the characters still come through,” says 90 year old playwright, Ray Lawler.

The Doll premiered in 1955, at the Union Theatre in Melbourne (where Lawler was Manager at the time) and following a successful Sydney season, toured the West End and Broadway, where it ran for 5 weeks after Lawler refused to change any of the “Australianisms”, which would have made the play more accessible in the American market. Little wonder that Lawler has never watched the British-Australian 1959 film version, re-titled Season of Passion for its American release.

Queensland Theatre Company last staged the Doll at the SGIO Theatre in August 1974. Directed by Joe MacColum, the cast included Diane Berryman  as Bubba, Kate Wilson as Pearl, Suzanne Roylance as Olive, Hazel Howson as Emma, Douglas Hedge as Barney, Frank Gallacher as Roo and Terry Brady as Johnnie Dowd.

Set in Australia in the 1950s, the Doll tells the story of cane-cutters Barney and Roo, who return from Queensland to the Carlton house they share with Nancy and Olive every year, for their annual five-months of fun. It’s been this way for 17 years. This summer though, it’s different.  Barney’s 17-year seasonal girlfriend Nancy has gone and gotten married; so Olive ropes in the uptight Pearl as company for him; while she and Roo, who is flat broke, realise life has caught up with them, and their relationship. Is this really the end?

Starring a superb cast led by Australia’s leading lady of the stage Robyn Nevin, the Doll has been revived; its messages just as poignant as they were when the play was first performed in Melbourne in 1955, forever changing the landscape of Australian Theatre like no other play before, or since. “It’s still about human need, human failings, human flaws, human aspirations,” says Nevin, a member of MTC’s Season 2012 Programming Team.

‘This production of the Doll fell beautifully into our laps. It was already programmed as Neil Armfield’s final production for Belvoir St Theatre in Sydney and I had been cast. But it was only when both Ray Lawler and Neil Armfield made it clear that they would love MTC to take it on that we realised it would be such a perfect fit,” said Nevin.

Summer of the Seventeenth Doll stars Steve Le Marquand (Buried Child, Underbelly Razor, Beneath Hill 60) as Roo; the enigmatic Robyn Nevin as Emma Leach; Alison Whyte (Frontline, Satisfaction, City Homicide, Logie, Helpmann and GreenRoom award winner) as Olive Leach; Eloise Winestock (As You Like It, Romeo & Juliet) as Bubba Ryan; Helen Thompson (Getting’ Square, Green Room award winner) as Pearl Cunningham; Travis McMahon (Cloudstreet, Don’s Party, Last Man Standing) as Barney Ibbot, and James Hoare (Noises Off, Twelfth Night) as Johnnie Dowd.

 “Ray Lawler wrote a play against marriage, says Neil Armfield. “Ray held up this amazing mirror and, as great theatre does, it shows us who we are.”

Kewpie Doll from The Performing Arts Collection, Melbourne


        Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, by Ray Lawler

When:                     22 February to March 11

Where:                    Playhouse QPAC

Director:                 Neil Armfield

 Cast:                       Steve Le Marquand, Robyn Nevin, Alison Whyte, Helen Thomson, Travis McMahon, Eloise Winestock, and James Hoare

Set Designer:         Ralph Myers

Costumes:              Dale Ferguson

Lighting:                Damien Cooper

Composer:              Alan John

Sound:                     Paul Charlier

Asst Director:        Susanna Dowling

Under 30 $33; Previews $42-$56; Mid-Week $56-$75; Weekend $60-$79

Tel 1800 355 528 or theatre2012.com.au

About Performing Arts Collection

The Arts Centre’s Performing Arts Collection is Australia’s premier collection relating to the history of circus, dance, music, theatre and opera, and is home to over 450,000 items including costumes, archives, designs and photographs.

Olive. Design by Anne Fraser for MTC's 1977 production, on which Armfield's revival is based.

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