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Floating World


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A: John Romeril Pf: 1974, Melbourne Pb: 1975 G: Drama in 20 scenes S: A cruise ship to Japan and Yokohama, 1975 C: 6m, 1fLes and Irene Harding, a middle-aged working-class Australian couple, are on a cut-price cruise from Australia to Japan. While Irene chatters, flirts, and generally enjoys herself on board, her husband sinks into a sullen mood and begins to drink heavily. His depression is occasioned by memories of the time he spent in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Burma in the Second World War. Soon his depression verges on insanity: he thinks a Malaysian waiter is a Japanese officer, believes the man he shares a cabin with is a dying comrade who reproaches him for agreeing to visit Japan, the land of the enemy, and imagines that a sympathetic retired Royal Navy officer is a British officer in the camp lording it over the ‘colonials’. Things get so bad that on arrival in Yokohama, Harding attacks some Japanese and has to be restrained in a straitjacket. As he sinks further into madness, he describes with great clarity how he managed to recover from beriberi and get ‘well again’.

A: John Romeril Pf: 1974, Melbourne Pb: 1975 G: Drama in 20 scenes S: A cruise ship to Japan and Yokohama, 1975 C: 6m, 1f

In this play Romeril helps to explain the prevailing xenophobia of Australians, especially of the working-class male. As the critic Christian Moe writes: ‘Romeril effectively presents the paradox of the crude, brazen Australian, which is illusion, as opposed to the vulnerable insecure man behind the mask, which is reality.’ The levels of illusion and reality are theatrically presented by moving from scenes of comic realism to the expressionistic fantasies of Harding's disturbed mind.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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