The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Act 1 of Travelling North consists of thirteen scenes, act 2 of twenty scenes. The fluid action moves between Melbourne in the southern part of Australia and a tropical area on the Queensland coast, two thousand miles north. Through its use of cinemalike devices, the action not only covers a wide landscape but also probes deeply into varied emotional territories.

The plot revolves around Frances, a woman in her mid-fifties, who falls in love with Frank, a rather dashing seventy-year-old widower. Frances, a survivor of the Depression during the 1930’s and a broken marriage, considers her life a failure, believing that she neither gave her two daughters a good home nor fulfilled her own expectations. So when Frank offers romance amid the eternal sunshine of northern Australia’s coast, she sets out to claim the happiness that has so long eluded her and for which she has not many years left to seek.

Frank, though, proves to be a difficult man: He is opinionated, authoritative, and demanding. Before long, as her daughters had predicted, he becomes ill, and Frances finds herself acting as a nurse to a crotchety old man obsessed with physical symptoms and medications. In scenes played against a warm, tropical splendor, Frank refuses to accept the truth of his physical degeneration and the chilling reality of his oncoming death. Although trapped in a relationship that has withered, Frances refuses to shirk what she sees as her responsibilities to Frank, an attitude arising from the guilt she still harbors over having failed her daughters when they were young.

The aging lovers’ children also figure in the play’s action and provide resonance for the...

(The entire section is 691 words.)