David Williamson is the most produced Playwright in the history of Australian Theatre.
For over forty years his plays have continued to attract strong audiences and box office revenue for the many Theatre companies around the country who produce and continue to produce his work.
He has also written numerous film scrips and television series.
In the Foreword to his latest Currency Press volume of Collected plays, Sandra Bates wrote …
“In 2011 David Williamson celebrated 40 years of mainstage productions, a remarkable body of work, which if read from the beginning (or better still seen) gives great insight into what has happened in Australia over these four decades; a social history at least as accurate and certainly much more entertaining than a treatise or dry history book covering those 40 years.
However, he is far from hanging up his quill, and after a short break because of illness, he has come back with a cornucopia of new plays and it has been Ensemble Theatre’s privilege to do the premiere productions of these plays including the five in this collection.
So what is it that makes David’s success unique in Australia’s theatre history? I believe it has a lot to do with his ability to see and understand Australia’s current circumstances, our society’s circumstances right here right now, indeed to be ahead of what is current so that by the time his plays are produced approximately two years after he has first had the ideas for a play, at production time, the play is absolutely timely. This ability to foresee what is likely to happen is why he is such a theatre genius.
His most popular plays are his satirical comedies but he has written a very broad spectrum of plays and, not content with writing plays that cover every known genre of playwriting, he has invented his own genre. His trilogy of conferencing plays breaks every rule of what is commonly accepted as the art of good playwriting. They start off at the climactic point and build down into a resolve, breaking all the rules, tut tut, but with such powerful results.
Is there a thread that connects his vast body of work, because apart from his large number of plays, there is his writing for film and television. I would say that at the basis of almost all his work the need for tolerance in our society is that connecting thread, and is probably why his work is so popular. Many of his characters are deeply flawed, but at the core of his work there is a desire for a better society, a more tolerant society, and even these deeply flawed characters mostly struggle to lead a better life, a more tolerant life, usually from events that have happened within the play that allow them to see the error of their ways. Almost always each of the characters goes on a journey through the events of the play and most of them grow and make positive changes in their lives.
This, of course, is inspiring for the audience because even though they’ve spent the evening rolling around the aisles with laughter, subconsciously they’ve taken on board that if these flawed characters can make changes in themselves for the better, then so too can they. And David is writing about us, so it’s hard not to identify with at least one of the characters. So many times have audience members said to me, ‘This is my life, how has David written so honestly about me, he doesn’t even know me?’
Equally, I have had many people say to me, ‘I know someone just like that, he’s captured that person exactly’. Sometimes that is true, however sometimes they are speaking about themselves but they don’t want to admit to their flaws which mirror the characters’.
The great thing is they identified with a character and if that character can change and improve the way they live their lives, then, if I’ve identified with that character, so can I.”
Sandra Bates 2012.
Further information on David Williamson’s career can be obtained in Kristin Williamson’s biography, ‘Behind the Scenes’ – available online.