John Romeril Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

John Henry Romeril (ROHM-ur-ihl) is one of Australia’s most prolific playwrights. He began writing plays while attending Monash University in Clayton, Victoria, Australia, from 1966 until his graduation with a bachelor of art with honors in English in 1970. After moving to Melbourne, Romeril quickly became an influential member of the Australian Performing Group, which staged its plays at the Pram Factory from 1970 to 1980.

In Australia, the cultural climate of the early 1970’s was receptive to Romeril’s dramatic and political interests. State funding for the theater, which allowed young local dramatists to produce creative, controversial plays, began in 1968 with the foundation of the Council for the Arts, succeeded by the Australia Council since 1975. The young Romeril flourished.

At the Pram Factory, Romeril wrote his plays quickly, sometimes in collaboration with fellow playwrights, and focused on their effective production. He often directed, occasionally acted in his plays, and even helped build set designs. His quiet, professional, helpful, and unassuming manner made him one of the leaders of this artists’ collective.

From his beginnings, Romeril has been dedicated to working-class interests, left-wing politics, and collaborative production. The latter meant that the majority of his plays of the 1970’s and 1980’s have not been published. He wrote his plays for production, not for a reading audience. For all his...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Gilbert, Helen. “Cultural Frictions: John Romeril’s The Floating World.” Theatre Research International 26, no. 1 (March, 2001): 60-70. Perceptive analysis of the original production of Romeril’s best-known play and the significance of changes made in subsequent revivals.

Griffiths, Gareth, ed. John Romeril. Atlanta: Rodopi, 1993. A substantial collection of essays on Romeril’s work. Includes some of the best criticism of his early plays. Valuable insights into themes and concerns of Romeril’s prolific output.

Robertson, Tim. “Romeril’s Art of Work.” In The Pram Factory: The Australian Performing Group. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2001. The whole book is dedicated to an up-close description of life and work at the Pram Factory, by one of its former members who also cowrote some of Romeril’s plays. The chapter on Romeril offers an insider’s account of Romeril’s activities as one of the driving forces of this alternative theater collective.

Sawada, Keiji. “The Japanese Version of The Floating World: A Cross-Cultural Event Between Japan and Australia.” Australasian Drama Studies 28 (April, 1996): 4-19. Excellent analysis of the 1995 Japanese version of Romeril’s play. Includes a study on audience reaction in Japan, with members of the audience interviewed about their reaction to the play.

Tompkins, Joanne. “Re-orienting Australian Drama: Staging Theatrical Irony.” ARIEL 25, no. 4 (October, 1994): 117-133. Includes a significant discussion of Romeril’s attempts to alienate the audience from his anti-hero Les Harding in The Floating World.