Person - Dymphna Cusack

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ELLEN DYMPHNA CUSACK (1902 - 1981)

Playwright, her Morning Sacrifice was a Workshop, designed by Cedric Flower, in 1944. The following year her Call Up Your Ghosts was co-winner with Sailor's Girl by Ric Throssell in a NT one act play competition.

In 1955 NT staged the world premiere of Pacific Paradise set on a fictitious South Pacific island, its subject matter atomic testing by foreign powers. Cusack wrote the play after viewing Children of Hiroshima (banned in England and USA) in a Paris cinema, and seeing newspaper placards “Hydrogen bomb test at Bikini kills Japanese fishermen 80 miles away”. Convalescing in Montmartre from a long stay in hospital, she thought about the subject matter and tape-recorded a script which she sent to a physicist. She then sent a second draft to literary friends, one of whom commented that it would be out of date before she finished it.

Although criticised for containing too many long speeches, it proved popular at NT, probably because it dealt with issues close to home, raising questions over people as guinea pigs: the islanders who refuse evacuation orders and Australians whose long coastline is threatened by contaminated currents.

Leslie Rees said of Dymphna Cusack that she always sought out the enemies of society and gave them hell. She has Wikipedia and Australian Dictionary of Biography entries.


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