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LORDS AND LARRIKINS: the Actor's Role in the Making of Australia Hardback
What does it mean to be an actor in Australia? How have the illusions and identities actors have shaped on our stages in their turn shaped Australia?
Australians, emerging from a convict colony through Federation and two world wars, have been both proud and confused about their origins, their identity and what kind of country they wanted Australia to be. From Conrad Knowles, Australia's first Hamlet, to Laurence Olivier's lordly post-war tour, the aspiring middle-classes turned to the stage for a pattern of gentility. Kath Leahy reveals how class rivalry, and the audience's need for a powerful image of themselves, trapped their stars in their public roles.
These Lords of the stage became missionaries for the classics and British superiority; while the Larrikins of low comedy retaliated with satire. Shakespeare was the principal weapon in this war, drawing in patrons, politicians and critics, while in the vaudeville houses comedians like Roy Rene upheld the legend of the 'real' Australia. Then, in 1970, just as public funding fuelled once again the rise of a high-art culture, a bevy of larrikins led a new assault to subvert their aspirations.
In this unique perspective on the public function of the male performer in Australia, Kath Leahy asks some penetrating questions about the uncanny authority of these personalities in the making of Australia.
DR KATH LEAHY trained with Hayes Gordon at the Ensemble Studios, Sydney, and has worked as an actor, director, drama coach and casting director. She holds a PhD from Newcastle University and now teaches at the Hunter School of the Performing Arts.