The 1960s - Politics
In 1960 ~ the year the Telephonic Communications (Interception) Act was passed, supposedly to protect the privacy of the individual ~ NT staged Mona Brand’s Hold the Line or The Land of Teletap, a parody of The Mikado satirising ASIO and “Reds under the beds”.
Lavishly costumed and reviewed as good-humoured and smoothly directed, it was also seen as propagandist, one audience member agreeing that the original Crimes Act was too sweeping, but “Surely in this electronic age you do not seriously imagine that there is a land in the world that isn’t a land of teletap. Or do you naively believe that Holy Mother Russia is all-pure?”
The cartoon-like Macbird! had a long run in 1967. The Shakespearean parody plays out the power struggle following the assassination of John F Kennedy, its main characters Lyndon Johnson as Macbird and Robert Kennedy as the Macduff figure.
Written for a student protest demonstration at Berkeley, US author Barbara Garson said her intention was not to accuse LBJ of having anything to do with JFK’s assassination, but to expose the hypocrisy of political leaders. Rather than trust them she worked from the premise that “those guys don’t know at all what they’re doing”. J Edgar Hoover condemned the work as “unbridled vulgarity, obscenity, blasphemy, perversion and public desecration of every sacred and just symbol”.
The Sydney production was directed by John Barnard who came to Australia with Laurence Olivier and the Old Vic Company in 1948 and joined NT soon after. (His father Ivor Barnard was a character actor in English films including his role as Wemmick in Great Expectations.) Emerging playwright Alex Buzo was in the crowd scenes.
Dennis Potter’s Vote Vote Vote for Nigel Barton traces a young man’s growing disillusionment as he climbs the political ladder. Potter wrote from personal knowledge, having been a UK Labour candidate. The play was technically complicated; there were casting problems with inexperienced people wanting only lead roles; and the lead actor Michael Rolfe suddenly pulled out during the run after being offered professional work. His replacement was Jim Kemp. Others in the cast were Alan Becher and designer Yvonne Francart’s daughter Jenny Lindbergh; stage managers were Jean-Paul Bell and Ron Moss.