"My Henry Lawson"

THE PENINSULA THEATRE COMPANY presents the world première of MY HENRY LAWSON by Frank Hatherley.
Playing @ the Community Centre, 2-10 Woorarra Avenue, North Narrabeen.
August 23, 24, 30, 31, September 6, 7 @ 8:00 p.m.; September 1 matinée @ 2:30 p.m.
Tickets: Adults $18.00. All concessions: $12.00.
Bookings on (02) 9451 1539.
"MY HENRY LAWSON" is a powerful new play that confronts those two enduring central icons of the Australian imagination - Henry Lawson and 'Banjo' Paterson.

Rehearsal photo

"My Henry Lawson" -- Cast, Sydney, August 2002



THE PLAY

Peninsula Theatre Company presents "My Henry Lawson"
A powerful new play by Frank Hatherley.

In 1896 Paterson is Lawson's solicitor as well as his rival 'bush poet'. Stunned to discover that the cash-strapped, heavy-drinking Lawson has secretly married a 19-year old nurse, Paterson tries to advise his friend and client. But the new Mrs Lawson is full of blithe optimism -- hasn't she just married Australia's greatest writer!
The play follows Henry and Bertha as they set out for the goldfields of Western Australia, and then to London, the literary heart of the Empire. Paterson also comes to London, on assignment from the Sydney Morning Herald, and finds them in a desperate condition. Bertha's sanity is under attack -- well, how would YOU cope, living with a flawed genius? But, returning to Sydney, it's Henry who attempts suicide, from a Manly cliff top.
This revealing play - in turns comic and searing - examines the traumatic Lawson marriage and the essential differences between Lawson and Paterson, first authentic chroniclers of a new nation's myths and characters.



CAST

BERTHA LAWSON..................Trudi Boatwright

HENRY LAWSON.....................Greg Eccleston

A.B. 'BANJO' PATERSON..........Michael Richmond



Henry Lawson -- 1900
Henry Lawson -- Portrait by John Longstaff, Melbourne, April 1900



THE AUTHOR

FRANK HATHERLEY is a Brisbane-born, Sydney-raised writer with a crowded background in radio, theatre, film and television. After a 35 year London career in theatre direction, television drama production for the BBC and university lecturing in media, he returned to Sydney to resume writing for the stage. Recent credits include the musical 'The Merry Widow from Bluegum Creek' and the farce 'Open for Inspection', which was given a highly successful production by the Peninsula Theatre Company in November 2000. He writes movie reviews for the influential weekly 'Screen International'. Frank is directing the première production of "My Henry Lawson".
Frank says: "While researching and writing "My Henry Lawson", I became aware of how often the two pioneering giants of Australian poetry are still mentioned - in the papers, on radio and television. They remain part of our shared culture and yet the details of their lives, their backgrounds, their huge and essential differences have, for the most part, been forgotten. I thought audiences might be interested to see them together, to know something of their life and opinions, to meet poor Bertha Lawson, and to witness the (spiritual) death of arguably our greatest homegrown genius."



CHARACTERS

Lawson HENRY LAWSON -- Born in the NSW bush in 1867, undereducated and addicted to alcohol, Lawson struggled throughout his life to fulfill his potential as the new nation's finest poet and short story writer, the first Australian to accurately "re-create bush attitudes seen from within". Unsubsidised, usually broke, he often wrote while working as house-painter and labourer, devising brilliantly descriptive and moving miniatures that prefigure Chekhov. His failed marriage to Bertha Bredt lead directly to a suicide attempt in 1902 and many desperate years in prisons and asylums. His poverty-striken death in 1922, aged 55, was followed by a State funeral, an oration from Prime Minister Hughes and the raising of a public subscription for a statue in the Domain.

Paterson A.B.'BANJO' PATERSON -- Andrew Barton Paterson, born 1864, lived at his family's successful Illalong station before being sent to private schools in Sydney. While studying to become a solicitor he contributed verse to the influential 'Bulletin' under his pseudonym 'The Banjo', the name of a beloved horse. His first collection of popular poems and ballads, 'The Man from Snowy River', was published in 1895 and has sold more copies than any other book of Australian poetry. He gave up law to become a horseback war correspondent, reporting from South Africa on the Boer War. Lecturing, journalism and newspaper editorship followed. During The Great War he drove an ambulance in France and became a Remount Officer with the Australian forces in Egypt. He died in 1941, aged 76.

Bertha BERTHA LAWSON -- Born in Gippsland, Victoria, in 1877, Bertha Bredt moved to Sydney when her mother married a city bookshop owner. She was 18 when she first met the 28 year old Henry Lawson. They married furtively a year later and moved together to Western Australia, New Zealand and London, during which time their children Joseph (known as 'Jim') and Bertha were born. Living in icy penury, with her husband often drunk and always short of cash, Bertha had a breakdown in London. Returning to Sydney, their relationship collapsed and she insisted, with more than a touch of vengeful malice, that her husband keep his legal obligations to maintaining the family. 20 years after his death, she published a highly selective autobiography entitled 'My Henry Lawson'.



Manly Daily article
Article in "The Manly Daily" newspaper, 16 August 2002



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