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The Removalists

In David Williamson’s ground-breaking 1971 play, two cops are drawn into the lives of two women dealing with domestic violence and abuse.

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Category: Theatre
Company: New Theatre
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The Removalists

Date: 15 Mar 2021

Inner city Melbourne. A seasoned police Sergeant and a raw recruit are drawn into the lives of two women dealing with domestic violence and abuse.

Simmonds the older cop bullies his subordinate Ross, belittling and patronising him; Kate, the controlling older sister bullies Fiona, her weaker sibling, badgering her to leave her husband Kenny. When the two police become involved in the planned escape, the consequences are both terrible and tragic.

David Williamson’s ground-breaking 1971 play radically changed Australian theatre. As a satirical study of authoritarianism and of social conditioning that forces people into constricting, inflexible roles, the play swings frantically between dark comedy and visceral savagery.

Through the use of stereotypical characters, realist vernacular, physical brutality and frequent profanity, Williamson investigated ‘ocker culture’ and the violence and sexism which lurked underneath the veneer of Australian society. In doing so, he placed ‘Australian voices’ on stage in a new and shocking way.

Johann Walraven directs. Lloyd Allison-Young, Laurence Coy, Xavier Coy, Alfie Gledhill, Eliza Nicholls and Shannon Ryan feature.

“David Williamson’s The Removalists hangs around Australian Theatre like a creepy uncle,” Walraven says. “Everyone is aware of him, knows his type – brash, unconventional, abrasive and (sometimes) funny. And he comes back to family gatherings year after year. And so this play also seems to come back to me year after year. From seeing numerous productions of it over the years, to directing scene work from it with students, it was synchronicity that the chance to direct it landed in my lap.

“Reading it again struck an uncomfortable chord with me, especially after what we had seen last year leading to the Black Lives Matter movement, and more recently the abuses of power from authority figures to women. While we, the cultural elite, may think we are ‘woke’, that society has woken up to the ills of Williamson’s play, we have not turned the ship around. Not even close. We’ve barely shifted course. People of colour are being killed by the police in Australia and around the world with an almost brazen abandon, and the women of our country are lucky not to be ‘met with bullets’ for standing up for their rights.

“The fact that a play written 50 years ago still so vividly paints an Australia that hasn’t changed, that its characters are still walking among us today, is a chilling realisation. And one that is immensely rewarding to explore.”

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