Person - David Martin

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DAVID MARTIN (1915 - 1997)

David Martin was the adopted name of the author of The Shepherd and the Hunter produced by NT in 1947. It was directed by Jock Levy who also played a major role. First staged by Unity in London in 1946, the play dealt with conflict in Palestine and was dedicated to a Palestinian who had joined the International Brigade and was killed in the Spanish Civil War. The central character, a terrorist foiled trying to assassinate the British High Commissioner, returns home to die in the presence of his father – a moderate who wants to continue planting orange trees and provide work for Jews but who catches his son’s bitterness and renounces his friendship with Arabs. The author had personal knowledge of the country and had lived on a kibbutz. The play was reviewed as a propagandist piece but dealing with a controversial topic.

Martin's Birthday of a Miner was staged by NT in 1949. Commissioned by the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain, it was seen as relevant to the industrial dispute then happening in Australia. Because of the coal strike the NT auditorium and stage had to be lit by kerosene pressure lamps. A cast of 22 played 30 characters. The author said you could get by with 15 as long as “no actor is required to play two parts in the same scene”. The plot revolves around a schoolteacher who writes a historical play (“set in 1883 but it’s just like 1949”) to celebrate the 90th birthday of a miner. The educated central character has to decide whether to leave or remain in the community where his forebears have mined for generations. He chooses to stay as an advocate for better conditions.

A Jewish twin born in Budapest on 22 December 1915, Ludwig Detsinyi was educated in Germany which he left in 1934 for Holland, Hungary and Palestine before joining the International Brigade in Spain. In 1938, with no English, he went to London to work in his father’s clothing factory. In 1941 he moved to Glasgow as a correspondent with the Daily Express, returned to London to work with the BBC, and in 1948 travelled to India for the Daily Express. He migrated to Melbourne in 1949.

Martin first published as Ludwig Detsinyi, Louis Detsinyi, Louis Destiny and Louis Adams. A linguist and a prolific writer of novels, plays, poetry and youth fiction, he edited the Australian Jewish News. One of his long satirical poems, under the pseudonym Spinifex, was “Rob the Robber” its subject Prime Minister Robert Menzies. Martin was a CPA member 1951- 9. He won the Patrick White Award in 1991.

In 1941 he married (Elizabeth) Richenda Powell, a descendant of the Quaker Elizabeth Fry. David Martin died at Beechworth Vic on 1 July 1997.

David Martin (poet) has a Wikipedia entry. The National Library of Australia holds tapes and his papers 1937-96 (99 boxes at MS 6885).

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