David Williamson's "The Club" and "The Removalists"
In his play The Club, David Williamson presents numerous Australian
attitudes of the 1970s. However, many of these attitudes are still relevant and
fairly accurate representations of Australian attitudes in the 1990s, although
some of course have changed somewhat over the time since the play was written
nearly twenty years ago.
Tradition plays a very important part in The Club. Each of the
characters of course has his own ideas and attitudes towards tradition, but
there are some which are more or less universal throughout the play. In The
Club, tradition is mainly presented as the opposite to progress and success;
that is, to achieve success in today's world, tradition must be abandoned. For
example, Laurie (the coach) blames an old Club tradition for his failure to win
a premiership, "You and your cronies wouldn't let me buy players." Jock (the
vice-president) replies, "We were upholding an old tradition. It was wrong, but
we believed in it." Then in the next line, Laurie accuses Jock of supporting
the rest of the committee in upholding the tradition not because he believed in
it himself, but because he didn't want Laurie to succeed, "They might have
believed in it but the reason why you wouldn't let the Club buy players was to
stop me winning a flag."
However, Jock does support and use tradition when it is in agreement
with his goals. For example when trying to avert a players' strike, Jock claims
that former Club heroes would be disgusted by the idea, "I want to turn all
those photographs around so they don't have to look down on this shameful
scene." However, it is later revealed that Jock supports the buying of players
and a coach who has not played for the Club, both of which are against
traditions, to ensure that the Club wins a premiership next season. This
hypocritical attitude towards tradition is probably a fairly typical Australian
attitude; traditions are upheld and honoured, but only when they do not stand in
the way of progress and success. This attitude presented by Williamson is
probably even more widespread now in the 1990s, as success is seen as being even
more important today.
Attitudes towards commercialism are also explored in The Club. In the
play, the Club itself is just beginning the road to commercialisation with the
purchase of Geoff Hayward (the star recruit) for $90,000. However, Gerry (the
administrator) and Jock's plans for next year not only include the dropping of
some Club traditions, but also extensive commercialisation as wealthy
entrepreneurs are recruited for sponsorship money which will be used to buy more
players. The attitude of acceptance of the commercialisation of sport that is
evident in The Club is more relevant in the 1990s than ever, when all popular
sports are funded mainly by sponsorship dollars from big corporations. Even the
Australian Olympic Team has received massive financial backing from sponsors,
something which is accepted and considered to be good by most people.
Power is also explored extensively in The Club; much of the play is
based on power struggles between the characters. As mentioned earlier, the
power struggle between Laurie and Jock is evidenced by Laurie's accusation that
Jock supported the committee's traditional approach only to stop Laurie from
succeeding. Obviously some of the characters are much more successful than
others. For example, Gerry is able to skilfully manipulate the other characters
so he can accomplish his own hidden agenda. However the two players, Danny (the
team Captain) and Geoff, do not really become involved in these power struggles
except when they aid Laurie at the end of the play. Ted (the president) has the
most obvious power at the start of the play, although he steadily loses it
throughout as the other characters strive to improve their standing. The desire
for power is basically universal, and there is resentment from those who are not
in power towards those who are. These attitudes are also still relevant in the
1990s, as shown by the recent Super League fiasco.
Competitiveness is also an important attitude in the play -- one which
is shared by all the characters, to at least some extent. In addition to
competing for power amongst themselves, the characters of The Club are also
fiercely competitive with the other football clubs in the league. The fact that
the Club has not been particularly successful recently and has not won a
premiership for nineteen years only strengthens the characters' competitive
attitudes and desire for victory. These sorts of competitive attitudes are
realistic and still held in the 1990s. Today's society itself is highly
competitive by nature, with people competing for jobs, wealth, and success,
amongst other things.
Loyalty is also an important issue in The Club, although each of the
characters is loyal in very different degrees and ways. Some of the characters,
like Danny, are fiercely loyal to others; for example Danny threatens a players'
strike if Laurie is forced to resign, "If that bloody committee of yours gives
Laurie the boot tonight, then we don't play tomorrow." Other characters, like
Jock and Gerry, lack loyalty to other people but are loyal to the Club as a
whole. Gerry believes that, "Loyalty to any one individual is a luxury you
can't afford in a business with a multi-million dollar turnover." Gerry's
pragmatic attitude is perhaps typical of the attitudes which are becoming
commonplace in the cutthroat business world of the 1990s.
The role of women is not explored all that extensively in The Club, but
Williamson does explore some of the attitudes relating to this issue in his play.
For example, all of the characters in The Club except Ted are of the belief
that it is unacceptable for a man to commit acts of physical violence against a
woman. For example, Jock refers to the incident where Ted hit a stripper, which
forced him to resign, "With closed fists too, you mongrel. Don't expect me to
be sorry for you." However Jock's attitude in this case is highly hypocritical
as he has admittedly bashed his own wife. Society's attitude towards such
violence against women is similarly hypocritical. Although most men claim they
would never hit a woman and are disgusted at those who do, the rate of domestic
violence shows that not enough is being done to change true attitudes towards
violence against women.
Williamson's portrayal reflects many Australian attitudes of the 1990s
very accurately, even though the play was written nearly twenty years ago. Some
of the attitudes expressed, especially those regarding the commercialisation of
sport, are even more relevant today than when the play was written, while others,
such as tradition, are still equally relevant in the Australian society of the
The second Williamson play I chose was The Removalists. This play as
well, deals with many Australian attitudes, many of which are very accurate
representations of the attitudes held by the majority of Australians.
One of the main issues explored in The Removalists is that of police
brutality. Simmonds (the veteran police sergeant) and later Ross (a new
recruit) are both excessively violent towards Kenny (Fiona's husband), whom they
eventually kill. There is an attitude of resigned acceptance towards this
brutality, as Rob (the removalist), Fiona (who was bashed by Kenny), and Kate
(Fiona's sister) are all present when Simmonds is attacking Kenny, yet none of
them attempt to do anything to stop the violence. Kenny realises that Simmonds
is going to bash him further when Rob, Fiona, and Kate have left, "That
sergeant's gonna beat the shit outa me. He's mad as a bloody snake." Later,
when Ross goes berserk and attacks Kenny, Simmonds of course does nothing to
stop the fighting, and in fact his first question to Ross is, "Did you let him
get away?" The attitude of Australian society at large towards police brutality
is accurately portrayed in The Removalists. People are disgusted by police
brutality, yet believe that there is little or nothing they can do to stop it.
Victims still do not speak out, for fear of further harassment, which has
recently been shown by shown by testimony to the Royal Commission into Police
Another, perhaps even more important issue explored in The Removalists
is that of police corruption. Simmonds is thoroughly corrupt, and by the end of
Ross' first day on the job, Simmonds has already managed to corrupt him as well.
He explains to Ross early on that, "Something doesn't have to be very big before
it's too big for us and likewise something doesn't have to be all that small
before it's not worth worrying about," therefore the workload at their
particular police station is quite low. Simmonds knows of a local prostitution
ring, yet does nothing to bring those involved to justice, "Well, there's a very
attractive group of young girls a block or two from the station who, well the
fact is they're very high class call girls." Then, when he realises that he and
Ross have gone too far in bashing Kenny, he offers to organise free time with
these prostitutes for Kenny in exchange for his silence about the bashing.
However when Kenny dies from his injuries a short while later, it is Ross who
goes berserk, suggesting that "Let's get a shotgun and make it look like suicide.
Shoot his bloody head off."
The attitudes expressed towards the extensive police corruption in The
Removalists are quite realistic. After Kenny begs Rob to call in police from
another station, the removalist says, "You must be mad. Do you think they'd
come down and collar their own mates?" The recent Royal Commission has revealed
that police corruption is a widespread and severe problem in Australia. However,
until now, attitudes have again been those of resigned acceptance, as people
believed that there was little that could be done about corrupt police, as
officers stick together and most courts believe the word of a police officer
over that of the accused.
Another central issue in The Removalists is that of domestic violence.
Williamson portrays issues and attitudes surrounding domestic violence and its
demoralising effects on women. For example, Fiona says, "It hardly inspires
confidence when you're made love to one minute and bashed up the next."
Simmonds takes the socially expected attitude of disgust against Kenny, but in
reality he has ulterior motives for even aiding Fiona and Kate at all, and he
also uses it as an excuse to bash Kenny. However, the play does make the point
that although domestic violence is considered unacceptable by most of society,
it is still occurring, and little is being done to stop it.
Other important attitudes explored in Williamson's play are those of law
and order, and of anti-authoritarianism. The audience is left wondering how a
society can expect law and order when those whose job it is to enforce the law
break it themselves on a regular basis. Anti-authoritarian attitudes are also
expressed, for example, when Kenny disobeys Simmonds' orders to shut up even
though he knows it will result in further bashing. Such anti-authoritarian
attitudes can be in some ways regarded as typically Australian.
The Removalists expresses a number of attitudes about Australian society
including those regarding police brutality and corruption, domestic violence,
law and order, and anti-authoritarianism. The majority of ideas presented about
these are accurate representations of the attitudes held by most Australians,
and are very relevant, even today.