Plays for Felons: Theatre in a Penal Colony 1796-1833

By Margaret Lindley.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In 1796 a new theatrical site was created on the fringes of the British Empire. Convicted felons performed their own selection of plays in a ramshackle theatre in Sydney Town. The theatre was soon closed down, but the efforts to create a theatrical life in the penal colony persisted. In 1832 a "Theatre Royal" was opened by the brother of a convict, and an audience of convicts, former convicts and free settlers was presented with a selection of plays which helped shape a defiant and distinctively Australian identity. This paper explores the impact of a highly selective European theatrical repertoire in a penal colony and the ways in which theatre created a counter culture of self-assertive defiance.

Keywords: Theatre, Prisoners, Identity, Counter-Culture

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 1, Issue 7, pp.45-52. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.724MB).

Dr Margaret Lindley

Lecturer, School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania, Australia

Dr Lindley was a consultant in music education and education of gifted and talented children in Western Australia. She subsequently lectured in history at the University of Melbourne and Monash University before becoming a research fellow on Australia's National Literacy Survey. Dr Lindley now lectures at the University of Tasmania. Her most recent publications include an examination of gendered concepts of theatrical creation and performance and a study of the first performance of a European play in Tasmania. She is also one of Australia's best-known academic commentators on sport.

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