Suvarna Garge (Editor)

Away (play)

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Michael Gow


Media type
Print (Paperback)

Originally published

Michael Gow



Publication date



Currency Press

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Toy Symphony, Sweet Phoebe, Furious, Blackrock, Summer of the Seventee

Away is a play written by the Australian playwright Michael Gow. First performed by the Griffin Theatre Company in 1986, it tells the story of three internally conflicted families holidaying on the coast for Christmas, 1968. It has become one of the most widely produced Australian plays of all time and is part of the Higher School Certificate syllabi or general High School Curriculum in many states, including Western Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.


Each of the three families hopes that the holiday will resolve the crisis that they face. Roy, a headmaster, and Coral, his wife, realise that their marriage is falling apart as they grieve the death of their son in the Vietnam War. Tom, an English immigrant and a pupil at Roy's school, knows that he is dying of leukaemia even though his parents, Harry and Vic, have yet to tell him. Tom's family know that this could be their last holiday together, so they are determined to have fun. The third family comprises uptight, martyrish mother, Gwen, her husband, Jim, and their daughter, Meg, who has become friends with Tom because of their mutual appearances in the recent school play. There is a mutual affection between Meg and Tom that is explored and challenged during a sex scene, where Tom - aware that his life is soon to end - transforms into a desperate weeping puppy and begs Meg to "Let (him) do it to (her)". After a storm the three families find themselves thrown together on the beach that is the play's setting and their antagonism is explored and resolved.

With the play's conscious nods to Shakespeare (it opens with the school's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream and ends with King Lear) Gow emphasises the performativity of individual human responses to death, racism, class, and relationships. Gow sees the play as largely autobiographical.

In 2005, a national Australian tour commemorated the play's 20th anniversary. It was a co-production with The Queensland Theatre Company and The Griffin Theatre Company. Michael Gow is now the Artistic Director of The Queensland Theatre Company and the return of 'Away' to the Griffin was a cause for great celebration. The production then embarked on a sold out national tour.

When the play was performed in the USA, many Americans did not realise Australia had been involved in the Vietnam War. They did not realise that many young Australians were killed in the Vietnam War or how unpopular the war had been due to conscription.


  • Tom
  • Roy
  • Coral
  • Meg
  • Gwen (Meg's Mother)
  • Jim (Meg's Father)
  • Vic (Tom's Mother)
  • Harry (Tom's Father)
  • Leonie
  • Rick
  • Miss Latrobe
  • First Camper
  • Second Camper
  • Third Camper
  • Fourth Camper
  • First Production

    Away was first performed by the Griffin Theatre Company on 7 January 1986 at the Stables Theatre, Sydney, with the following cast:

    TOM: Christian Hodge

    ROY: Benjamin Franklin

    MEG: Angela Toohey

    GWEN: Andrea Moor

    JIM: David Lynch

    CORAL: Vanessa Downing

    HARRY: Geoff Morrell

    VIC: Julie Godfrey

    LEONIE: Angela Toohey

    RICK: Christian Hodge

    Campers, hotel guests, fairies etc. were played by the company.

    Directed by Peter Kingston

    Designed by Robert Kemp

    Lighting design by Liz Allen


  • Winner of the 1986 New South Wales Premier's Literary Award
  • References

    Away (play) Wikipedia

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