Away is a drama that illustrates a number of the issues facing Australia during the sixties. It presents a reflection of people and situations that confronted us during those changing times. Set in the context of the Vietnam War and the turmoil of social and cultural change ushered in by the turbulent sixties, Away presents a triptych of three families each struggling with their own demons. Though flawed in their own way each family seeks redemption.
Theatrical Technique: #
Role of music, Away uses the music of Mendelssohn for mood music and to create atmosphere.
Use of Australian rituals and practices; #
play nights, travelling north for holidays, the beach, camping, storms, Australian vernacular and idioms. This gives the play local colour and helps to engage the audience.
Use of Shakespeare #
To give the play a universal stature, Gow introduces and ends the play with excerpts from Shakespeare. This elevates the play, giving it a broader world-wide significance, saving it from being merely another narrow colonial parochial play.
Deals with the issues of journeys, changes, moving on and its effects,
1) A change is as good as a rest - the effects of going “away” to get
away from all your problems and see them from a different perspective.
Alternative uses for the term away:
*go away, pulled away, washed away, give away, hide away, send away, keep away, lead away, take away, throw away, dream away, break away, look away, walk away, pass away, put away….
A change of scenery can often give you a change of perspective on things. In Mid Summers Night Dream, the lovers have to escape the rational daytime authoritarian world for a more relaxed magical night time in the natural world to be free.
In Away, the families leave the city’s regimentation; timetables, order, stress and school to experience regeneration and healing through the greater freedom of nature and the beach. This allows them to get in touch with their inner selves.
In King Lear, the main characters have to come to terms with changing conditions as they “*crawl unburdened towards death”.
2) The effect of tragic change on a married couple as a result of the death;
Roy and Coral - of their son, in Vietnam.
Roy tries to deal with it stoically, however Coral appears unable to cope or adjust to the changed circumstance. Coral’s obsession with the death of her son traps her in the past. Roy’s desperate plea “be as you were” though based on the past is essentially urging her to “move on” . They travel by plane and stay in a luxury hotel removed from nature.*
Harry and Vic – the impending death of Tom
The inevitability of Death illustrates our temporality, the transitoriness, (transience) of life. The poorest, yet most content of the three couples, Harry and Vic choose not to dwell on the past or fear the future. They are committed enjoy the present and make the most of each moment they can spend with their ill-fated son. They seem the most positive and travel simply with the intention of enjoying the simple pleasures of nature in the raw.
3) The theme of regeneration through travel: revitalisation, revival, recreation, restoration, reconciliation, resignation, rehabilitation, reformation, resurgence, rejuvenation, resolution, reminiscence……
Main Characters #
The main characters and their journeys for chan :
Jim, Gwen, Meg: Drive to a northern NSW beach with their caravan and meet with Tom in a natural setting. Jim is a long-suffering, compliant ditherer.
Gwen, a scold, is hyper-critical, possessive and insecure due to her fear of being abandoned. Her protective shell of pretentious superiority begins to crumble when Meg confronts her about her manipulation through guilt and the storm destroys her material possessions. After she hears about Tom’s imminent death, she realises how selfish and self centred she has become. She develops a sense of compassion and consideration for others.
Meg is a strong personality, clear-sighted, opinionated, strong willed and independent. She likes Tom but maintains a distance by eventually turning down his ill-timed and ill-advised sexual advances. She also eventually stands up to her Mother’s domineering methods and exposes her mother’s manipulation through guilt. She also chastises her father for being too accommodating of Gwen.
Roy and Coral: Coral holidaying in a luxury hotel on the Gold Coast finally leaves Roy and meets Tom on a remote beach in northern NSW where she gradually makes the transformation from a grieving mother to accepting her lot in life. By travelling to a natural setting she is able to finally shed her depression and begin a new life.
Harry, Vic, Tom: A wholesome family who have come resigned to their destiny and simply want to enjoy the remaining time with their son before he begins his “crawl towards death”.
Away highlights the individual’s inability to move on from traumatic and emotional issues which have afflicted them.
Central is the theme of death, mortality and our need to face its inevitability. Despite its irrevocable power over us, we need to live in the present and move forward positively into the future.
Tom is a pivotal character in the play and his imminent death affects all the characters, especially Coral, Gwen and Roy.
Coral who has been unable to live normally because of the loss of her son in Vietnam, eventually becomes aware of the need to change and overcome her self obsession and re-establish her connections with those she used to be close to. She finally resolves to adhere to Roy’s advice; “Be as you were”
On the other hand, Gwen is also forced to re-evaluate her circumstances in the light of Tom’s revelation. Gwen suddenly becomes aware that she has no reason to be so self – centred. She finally admits to herself that she has used guilt and tension to manipulate and control her family. The very essence of her being has been to exert power and influence over Meg and Jim. Whether or not the realisation of Tom’s premature death produces a genuine change, we may never know.