Critical Context

The Removalists is David Williamson’s second play and his first successful one, and it demonstrates a firm hold on what constitutes effective drama, especially the delicate balance between comedy and seriousness. In the plays and television and film scripts that have followed, Williamson has continued to maintain and strengthen this keen understanding of theatrical convention. He has also retained the conviction that drama can carry ideas and provide entertainment at the same time. His later plays place believable characters in ordinary settings and provide them with forceful dialogue and action that makes subtle comments on human nature. The Department (pr. 1974, pb. 1975) examines bureaucracy, The Club (pr. 1977, pb. 1978) exposes corruption in professional sports, and Travelling North (pr. 1979, pb. 1980) looks at the process of aging. Human relationships are examined in What If You Died Tomorrow (pr. 1973, pb. 1974) and The Perfectionist (pr. 1982, pb. 1983), and Emerald City (pr., pb. 1987) takes up the consequences of fame.

An Australian writer, Williamson draws from his own experience and sets his plays firmly within the Australian context, remaining faithful to his country’s geography, place names, cultural heritage, customs, and social mores. In particular, he makes full use of the Australian vernacular in dialogue. During an interview, Williamson noted that “of all the art forms, drama is the most parochial,” explaining that plays come from a “particular tribe”; he added, however, “The very best of that tribal writing transcends the boundaries of that tribe.” Certainly this has proven true with Williamson’s work, for it not only has earned for him a place as Australia’s most respected and popular dramatist but also has gained for him a wide audience abroad. For example, The Removalists, so acclaimed at home because of its pure Australianness, met with great success in Poland when performed there as a protest against the government’s oppressive rule.