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Summer of the Seventeenth Doll


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A: Ray Lawler Pf: 1955, Melbourne Pb: 1957; rev. 1978 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Cottage in Carlton, Melbourne, Dec. 1952–Jan. 1953 C: 3m, 4fBarney Ibbot and Reuben (Roo) Webber are good mates, who work together most of the year as sugar-cane cutters and then spend their summer lay-off period in Melbourne. For 16 summers they have joined up with the same girls Nancy Wells and Olive Leech, bringing them presents which always include a kewpie doll. Nancy has married a steady but boring bookseller, so Olive tries to find Barney a substitute in the form of a sceptical widow Pearl Cunningham. Since Roo left work when his prowess was challenged by a younger cutter, he now has to find a summer job. Barney manages to win over Pearl, but the fun has gone out of the summer break. Olive's mother Emma reminds Roo that he is now too old for ‘chasin' wimmen’ and ‘bein' top dog’. So he decides to stay in his job and asks Olive to marry him and settle down. But, weeping hysterically, she demands to have the ‘heaven’ of their summers back again. Roo realizes the past is dead, smashes the seventeenth doll, and leaves to go back to cane cutting.

A: Ray Lawler Pf: 1955, Melbourne Pb: 1957; rev. 1978 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Cottage in Carlton, Melbourne, Dec. 1952–Jan. 1953 C: 3m, 4f

This was the first Australian play to become internationally famous and was made into a film. Its authentic dialogue and courage in addressing contemporary Australian concerns were decisive in establishing a native dramatic tradition. The Doll Trilogy also comprises Kid Stakes (1975), which showed how in 1935 marriage was out of the question for the foursome, and Other Times (1976), showing Barney and Roo returning from active service in the Second World War.

Subjects: Literature.


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Authors

Ray Lawler (b. 1921)


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