The Removalists

by David Williamson

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Removalists, by Australian playwright David Williamson, is a play that highlights the abuse both on the part of the police force and of the police force on the part of civilians. In the play, the police are a symbol of authority more generally. The two sisters, Kate Mason and Fiona Carter, use the police to intervene on behalf of Fiona in defense against her abusive husband, Kenny. While this protocol is natural, it is unusual how Kate encourages her sister to show the police her bruises by undressing (as Fiona protests that a medical examination has already been conducted).

The play, by virtue of its limited number of characters, suggests that violence and control are masculine features and sexuality and manipulation feminine ones. Williamson leaves culpability ambiguous; on the one hand, the women manipulate the power of the policemen by sexually enticing them (though there is no actual offense); on the other hand, Fiona's vulnerable position as the victim of domestic violence leaves her with no other recourse.

The Removalists also demonstrates the way in which corruption begets corruption. For example, Kenny's illicit treatment of his wife, coupled with his verbal abuse, prompts Simmonds—and, later, Ross—to beat him. Not even the Constable Ross, newly initiated into the police force and relatively innocent, is above being provoked to outlandish behavior. The title character, "the removalist," sent simply to take furniture from the Carter's home, is the only character who is uncorrupted.

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