The Academy

Author Navigation

 

 

 

Australian playwright and dramaturge John Romeril was born in Melbourne 26 October 1945. He wrote his first play before graduating from Monash University in 1970 and to date is credited with over 60  completed works. In 1968 Romeril became a founding member of the Australian Performing Group (APG) and between 1970 and 1980 he was a house writer for the group.  Through his association with the APG Romeril was able to pursue the collaborative medium of writing he so enjoys. Many of his works are developed in an environment involving frequent workshopping and performance resulting in works that exhibit a blend of his own unique improvisational style, as well as those of some of the greatest writers, actors and directors in modern Australian theatre.

During his time with the APG, Romeril wrote 26 plays including; Marvellous Melbourne (a collaboration with Jack Hibberd in 1970),  Bastardy (1972), The Earth, Air, Fire and Water Show (1973), and Waltzing Matilda (with Tim Robertson in 1974). Perhaps Romeril's most successful play from this period is The Floating World (1974) in which  the main character is pursued by his experiences of World War II whist travelling on a cruise from Australia to Japan. The play deals with the historically complex relationship between the two countries and is the genesis of Romeril's ongoing fascination with Japanese drama styles and culture. This fascination with Japan is more recently addressed in his latest play Miss Tanaka in which he examines the Japanese/Australian relationship through a young Japanese girl living in the pearling community of Broome in 1939 (just prior to the Japanese bombing of Darwin harbour). Commissioned by Handspan Theatre Miss Tanaka not only deals with issues of Japanese culture, but also draws directly on Japanese theatre styles, employing music, dance and puppetry interwoven with western acting techniques.

When the APG dissolved in 1980, Romeril continued to write prolifically. He also remained committed to the collaborative approach to theatre and has worked with companies Australia wide including the Jigsaw Theatre Company in Canberra, Melbourne's Magpie Theatre, Adelaide's Troupe, the Victorian College Of The Arts and Hobart's Salamanca Theatre Company.

Romeril's works reflect a definite Brechtian influence which often require audience participation and are designed to elicit an audience response to the issues presented. The issues themselves stem from the author's ongoing exploration of Australian culture and the many influences on it such as war, American cultural imperialism, politics and multiculturalism. Among his more unusual creations are his improvisational musicals.  These include The Kelly Dance, a bush-dance style play developed in 1984 during his association with Troupe, Jonah Jones (1984) which is in fact an adaptation of the Louise Stone novel ,and the unlikely, Manning Clarke's History of Australia The Musical (1988). 

As well as his achievements as a playwright, Romeril had developed a reputation as a leading dramaturge and has worked extensively with the Melbourne Workers' Theatre, The Victorian College of The Arts and for the Australian National Playwrights Centre the largest and longest-running play development organization in Australia. It was Romeril that extended the influence of the Center from the United States and Canada to include Asian regions.

As well as the theatre, Romeril has written extensively for the screen with his latest short film One Night The Moon, a musical featuring Paul Kelly and Directed by Rachel Perkins, winning him a gold AWGIE (Australian Writer's Guild) award in 2001. Other awards include a short-listing in the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards, Community Relations Commission Award, 2002 for Miss Tanaka,  and the winner of the New South Wales Premier's Awards, Play Award, in 2002 for the same play.

 


 

Simon and Delyse Ryan ACU National