David Williamson Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

David Williamson has written numerous screenplays for Australian and American films. Some he has adapted from his own work: Stork (1971), The Removalists (1974), Don’s Party (1976), The Club (1980), Travelling North (1986), Emerald City (1988), Sanctuary (1995), and Brilliant Lies (1997). Others are original: Petersen (1974), Eliza Frazer (1976), Partners (1981), and Pharlap (1984). Two screenplays known internationally are Gallipoli (1981) and The Year of Living Dangerously (1982). He has also written the screenplays for A Dangerous Life (1988), the television miniseries The Four-Minute Mile (1988), and (with Kristin Williamson) other Australian-produced television programs including The Last Bastion (1984), Princess Kate (1988), and Dogs Head Bay (1999).


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Early in his career, David Williamson gained recognition of the kind often considered most important to an Australian artist: the British George Devine Award in 1972 for his second play, The Removalists, while it was still onstage in Sydney. In 1973, the London Evening Standard conferred on him the Most Promising Playwright Award for the London production of The Removalists.

At home, Williamson received in 1972 his first two “Awgies” (Australian Writers Guild Awards) for The Removalists; in the next few years, he took additional Awgies for Don’s Party, The Club, and Travelling North, as well as the Eric Award from Melbourne Critics for Jugglers Three in 1974. In subsequent years he has picked up six more Awgies. Williamson has won the Australian Film Institute Script Award several times, for Petersen, Don’s Party, and Gallipoli. He has also been active in various Australian arts organizations, including the Australian Writers Guild, the Australia Council, and the Theatre Board of the Council. In 1983 he was honored by the government with the Order of Australia, and in 1988, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Sydney and another in 1990 from Monash University. The Australian National Trust in 1998 named him as one of the country’s “100 Living National Treasures.” Williamson’s plays, especially, have gained acceptance abroad, even though each one stands firmly rooted in the Australian experience. Possibly, then, his greatest achievement lies in the talent to make universal that experience peculiar to Australians.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Carroll, Dennis. “David Williamson.” In Australian Contemporary Drama, 1909-1982. New York: Peter Lang, 1985. Focuses on Williamson’s depiction of the “ocker”—the stereotypical Australian male proud to be a colonial bumpkin—loud, rude, uncouth, uncultured, and generally obnoxious. A limited discussion.

Fitzpatrick, Peter. “Styles of Love: New Directions in David Williamson.” In Contemporary Australian Drama, edited by Peter Holloway. Rev. ed. Sydney: Currency Press, 1987. In addition to discussing Williamson’s early plays, the article explores the playwright’s reputation and the criticism that his work is repetitious and slick, charges made against him all through his career.

Fitzpatrick, Peter, ed. Williamson. North Ryde, Australia: Methuen Australia, 1987. Describes Williamson as a “storyteller to the tribe” and “a shaper of cultural images.” Uses this approach to analyze the plays to The Perfectionist, focusing on their handling of “ockerism,” meaningful human relationships, and public institutions. The appendices provide a chronology of Williamson’s career and a survey of the plays in performance. Select bibliography.

Kiernan, Brian. David Williamson: A Writer’s Career. Melbourne, Australia: Heinemann, 1990. Rev. ed. Paddington, Australia: Currency Press, 1996. Called a “critical biography,” this comprehensive study chronicles Williamson’s personal life along with his development as a writer. Discusses each of the plays, providing background on productions as well as interpretation. Provides extensive information on Williamson’s film and television career. Bibliographical materials. Most complete work on Williamson.

Kiernan, Brian. “David Williamson: Satiric Comedies.” In International Literature in English: Essays on the Major Writers, edited by Robert Ross. New York: Garland Press, 1991. Contains a biographical sketch, an essay on the plays through 1989, a primary bibliography, and an annotated secondary bibliography. Kiernan argues that while the plays are highly “accessible” on any level, they exceed both satire and comedy to combine those forms into an original drama with a rare “human dimension.”

Montesano, A. P. “A Dangerous Life.” American Film 13 (November, 1988): 8. Examines “A Dangerous Life,” the documentary about the fall of the Ferdinand Marcos regime, and compares it to Williamson’s screenplay, The Year of Living Dangerously.

Zuber-Skerritt, Ortrun, ed. David Williamson. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1988. Offers excerpts from selected talks and articles by, and interviews with, Williamson. Provides an extensive bibliography of newspaper and magazine articles as well as international reviews.