Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Removalists examines the nature of violence and in so doing proposes that senseless brutality is an unchanging force stemming from a basic flaw in humankind. Thus violence of one type or another invades all avenues of human experience.

From the outset, the embittered Sergeant Simmonds informs the idealistic rookie that nothing can be done to change matters beyond the station walls. His explanation for this state of affairs is a simple one: “The world is full of human beings.” So violence is inevitable. Certainly, the action in The Removalists could have moved in a different direction. Without a clear motive, in some ways accidental, the murder of Kenny need not have taken place, and the inexplicable ritual of brutality in which the policemen engaged cannot have much logic behind it. Once the course is set, though, violence will have its way, whether in war, in domestic life, or in national affairs. Sometimes the violence is planned, but more often, as in The Removalists, it selects victims randomly.

Through handling the subject of violence in so outrageous a manner, the playwright poses indirectly some vital questions. Is there a way out of this violent “ritual of exorcism”? Or is the dilemma a hopeless one? Do humans relish violence vicariously—enacted in sports, on the screen or television, or read about in the newspaper? Should brutality be met with more of the same? Who are the victims? the victimizers? David Williamson’s purpose in The Removalists is to raise these questions, not to answer them.