Michael Gow’s play Away is the story of three different Australian families who go on holiday for Christmas in the sixties. By going away each family is hoping to resolve their issues. Although Away is set some time ago the themes and issues explored in the play are still relevant to a modern day audience, even one of a non-Australian background. Shakespearean plays that were written many hundreds of years ago and are still understandable and relevant to people all over the world today. Away is the story of three Australian families who go on holiday during the Christmas of 1968.
Roy and Coral (the headmaster and his wife) are becoming increasingly close to breaking up. Their son was killed in the Vietnam War and Coral is still grieving for him. Tom and Meg were in the school’s production of A Midsummer’s Nights Dream. Tom has Leukaemia, and his parents, Harry and Vic, haven’t told him that he is going to die, but Tom has worked it out already. Tom and his family immigrated to Australia form England. They are going on holiday knowing that it could be their last together as a family, and are determined to have a good time. Meg is the same age as Tom and they both like each other.
Meg’s parents, Gwen and Jim are going on holiday so Gwen can have a break. Gwen is a rather uptight and stressed person and thinks that to have anything good happen you have to make sacrifices. During each of the three families holidays there is a storm and they coincidently end up on the same beach. Away by Michael Gow is set in suburban Australia in the summer of 1968. However the specific time and place do not make it any less relevant to me. I could still relate to and understand what was happening in the play, even though it is set in a time before I was born.
This is very much like Shakespearean plays that were written hundreds of years ago, even today people can still connect with the characters in them. It is interesting to note that Gow begins Away with a Shakespearean play, A Midsummer’s Nights Dream, and then choses to end it with another of Shakespeare’s plays, King Lear. Away, like Shakespearean plays is non-naturalism, a feature of this being the non-changing set. Throughout the production of Away that I saw the set remains the same except for basic props such as suitcases and a table. White sand covered the floor and lights were shone on the sails to show the hanges between scenes for the play. In the play Tom is compared to Chip Rafferty, a well-known Australian actor who died at age 62 in 1971. Younger people of today probably haven’t heard of him, but from watching the play and reading the script can safely assume that he was a famous actor. What makes Away relevant to an audience of today or from a non-Australian background are the universal themes present in the play. As long as the audience can connect and empathise with a character or understand a theme in the play then it will be relevant to them.
Some of the themes in the play include death/grief/loss, racism, class systems, and relationships. The relationship between Gwen and Meg (mother and daughter) is quite strained during the play. Gwen is portrayed as a very uptight and stressed person, while Meg is in her late teens and has her own ideas about things. During Act Three Gwen and Meg begin arguing over Jim’s missing Christmas presents for everyone. The argument ends with Gwen saying how hard she tries to make things good for Meg, and Meg apologises.
I feel that I can connect to Meg, especially in the scene where she is arguing with her mother. After that argument her father, (Jim) asks her why she did it, because he’d asked her not to upset her mother and she did. Meg replies that she couldn’t help herself. I know how she feels. You don’t mean to hurt the person or upset them but you just have to have your say, no matter what the consequences of that may be. I also feel that I can relate to Gwen, Meg’s mother as she reminds me of my own mum. The near constant stressing about everything, and wanting the very best for her daughter is very familiar.
The issue of death is also covered in Away. Roy and Coral lost a son in the Vietnam was and Coral is still grieving for him. While Harry and Vic know that there son Tom is going to die from leukaemia. People all over the world, no matter what language they speak, what culture they come from, or which country they live in can understand and empathise with what these families may be feeling. The sense of loss and grief that comes with death is a universal feeling that can make the play relevant to so many people.
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