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Authors: David Williamson

Emerald City

Playwright's Biography

David Williamson has been Australia's best known and most widely performed playwright for the last forty years. He has produced over fifty plays, including:
Emerald City
,
The Removalists
,
Don's Party
,
The Club
,
Travelling North
,
The Perfectionist
,
Sons of Cain
,
Money and Friends
,
Brilliant Lies
,
Dead White Males
,
After the Ball
,
The Jack Manning Trilogy
,
The Great Man
,
Up For Grabs
,
Soulmates
,
Scarlett O'Hara at the Crimson Parrott
,
Nothing Personal
,
When Dad Married Fury
,
Managing Carmen
,
Rupert
and most recently,
Cruise Control
. His plays have been translated into many languages and performed internationally, including major productions in London, Los Angeles, New York and Washington (
The Club
in 1979 and
Rupert
at the Kennedy Center in 2014).
Up For Grabs
went on to a West End production starring Madonna in the lead role.

David's screen adaptations of his own plays include
Emerald City
,
The Removalists
,
Don's Party
,
The Club
,
Travelling North
, along with his original screenplays for feature films including
Libido
,
Petersen
,
Gallipoli
,
Phar Lap
,
The Year of Living Dangerously
, and
Balibo
(as co-writer) and for television he adapted
On The Beach
. David's many awards include 11 Australian Writers' Guild Awards, 4 Australian Film Institute Awards for Best Screenplay and, in 1996, the United Nations Association of Australia Media Peace Award. David has been named one of Australia's Living National Treasures.

FIRST PRODUCTION

Emerald City
was first performed by the Sydney Theatre Company at the Drama Theatre of the Sydney Opera House on 1 January 1987, with the following cast:

COLIN
John Bell
ELAINE
Ruth Cracknell
KATE
Robyn Nevin
MIKE
Max Cullen
HELEN
Andrea Moor
MALCOLM
Dennis Grosvenor

Director, Richard Wherrett
Designer, Laurence Eastwood

Emerald City
was produced by Griffin Theatre Company at the SBW Stables Theatre, Sydney, opening on 17 October 2014, with the following cast:

COLIN
Mitchell Butel
ELAINE
Jennifer Hagan
KATE
Lucy Bell
MIKE
Marcus Graham
HELEN
Kelly Paterniti
MALCOLM
Gareth Yuen

Director, Lee Lewis
Designer, Ken Done
Costume Designer and Associate Set Designer, Sophie Fletcher
Lighting Designer, Luiz Pampolha
Composer, Kelly Ryall
Stage Manager, Vanessa Wright

CHARACTERS

COLIN ROGERS
, a scriptwriter, 40-ish

ELAINE ROSS
, his agent, 50

KATE
, a publisher, Colin's wife, 40-ish

MIKE McCORD
, an entrepreneur, 40s

HELEN
, a PR consultant, late 20s

MALCOLM
, a merchant banker, 40s

ACT ONE

COLIN
stands by a window, gazing out. He is a handsome, engaging man in his late thirties whose natural disposition is warm and open, though when he feels uncertain or under attack, he's capable of an aloof almost arrogant air and of sharp retaliation. He is watched by
ELAINE
ROSS
, a shrewd capable woman in her fifties.

COLIN
: [
turning away from the window
] What other city in the world could offer a view like this?

ELAINE
: Rio. But I'm prepared to believe it's the second most beautiful city in the world.

COLIN
: I used to come here when I was a kid and go back with my head full of images of lushness. Green leaves spilling over sandstone walls, blue water lapping at the sides of ferries. Flame trees, jacaranda, heavy rain, bright sun.

ELAINE
: [
drily
] Yes, there's no lack of colour.

COLIN
: Everything in Melbourne is flat, grey, parched and angular. And everything is controlled and
moderate
. It never rains in buckets like it does here in Sydney, it drizzles. The wind never gusts, it creeps along the streets like a wizened old mugger and slips a blade into your kidneys. Sydney has always felt like a city of subtropical abundance.

ELAINE
: Abundance. [
Nodding
] Yes. There's abundance. Sometimes I'm not sure of what.

COLIN
: There's a hint of decadence too, but to someone from the puritan south, even that's appealing.

ELAINE
: I didn't drag you up here, then?

COLIN
: No, I would've come years ago, but I couldn't persuade Kate. She's convinced Sydney is full of con men, crooks and hustlers.

ELAINE
: She's right.

COLIN
: Melbourne has its quota of shysters.

ELAINE
: Sydney is different. Money is more important here.

COLIN
: Why more so than Melbourne?

ELAINE
: To edge yourself closer to a view. In Melbourne all views are equally depressing, so there's no point.

COLIN
: [
laughing
] I'm not convinced.

ELAINE
: It's true. No-one in Sydney ever wastes time debating the meaning of life—it's getting yourself a water frontage. People devote a lifetime to the quest. You've come to a city that knows what it's about, so be warned. The only ethic is that there are no ethics, loyalties rearrange themselves daily, treachery is called acumen and honest men are called fools.

COLIN
: I thought you liked the place?

ELAINE
: I do. It's my city and I accept it for what it is. Just don't behave as if you're still in Melbourne, because if you do you'll get done like a dinner.

ELAINE
exits.
COLIN
moves thoughtfully to centre stage.
KATE
walks on. She's Colin's wife. An attractive, vivacious and intelligent woman in her thirties. Her frowning earnestness often makes her funny when she's not trying to be.

COLIN
: This is an amazing city.

KATE
: [
bluntly
] I hate it.

COLIN
: [
suddenly angry
] Christ, Kate! If you're going to be this negative right from the start, let's just cancel everything and go back south.

KATE
: We can't. You insulted everybody as soon as you knew we were going.

COLIN
: It's a stunning city, Kate. You should see the view that Elaine's got.

KATE
: To judge a city by the views it offers is the height of superficiality. This city is
dreadful
. The afternoon paper had three words on the cover: ‘Eel Gets Chop', and no matter how much I juggle that around in my mind I can't find a meaning that justifies the whole front page of a newspaper.

COLIN
: To judge a city by
one
afternoon newspaper is also the height of superficiality.

KATE
:
All
the media here is devoted to trivia. The places to be seen dining in, the clothes to be seen wearing, the films to be seen seeing—it's all glitter and image and style. New York without the intellect.

COLIN
: What's Melbourne? Perth without the sunshine?

KATE
: People in Melbourne care about more than the image they project.

COLIN
: They seem just as eager for money and fame as anyone is.

KATE
: My friends don't care about money and fame. Terri works her guts out in the Western suburbs helping kids fight their way out of intellectual and physical poverty. Sonia tries to repair the psyches of wives whose husbands beat the Christ out of them, and Steve uses his legal skills to try and stop the powerless being ripped off by the powerful—

COLIN
: [
interrupting
] Have you ever seen any of them laugh? Wait, I'm wrong. I have. When one of Sonia's battered wives sliced off her husband's member. She had quite a chuckle over that one. And she didn't want the wife to go to prison because it was only a ‘one-off act'.

KATE
: They might have tunnel vision in some areas—

COLIN
: [
interrupting
] Some areas? That lot are so paranoid they blame the CIA if the weather turns cloudy!

KATE
: At least they don't live their lives totally for themselves.

COLIN
: You know what I couldn't stand about them? Their smug self-righteousness. They were all earning salaries five times the size of any of the poor bastards they were supposed to be helping.

KATE
: Alright. You didn't like them. I did.

COLIN
: I have heard Terri laugh too, come to think of it. When I fractured my elbow tripping over that clump of wheezing fur she claims is a cat.

KATE
: They used to laugh a lot. Just not when you were around.

COLIN
: What's that meant to mean?

KATE
: You picked a fight with them every time they opened their mouths.

COLIN
: Can you blame me? They made it quite clear they despised the films I'd written.

KATE
: Colin, you're paranoid.

COLIN
: They despised them. My scripts were about the lives of middle-class trendies. The truth was
they
were the biggest middle-class trendies of the lot. Steve managed to hate my films without ever seeing one.

KATE
: [
laughing
] Colin, you're totally paranoid.

COLIN
: [
agitated that she won't believe him, impassioned
] He told me with immense pride that he'd never seen an Australian film in his life, and that in the last ten years he'd never seen a film that didn't have subtitles. How trendy can you get? How many working-class Australians drink vintage wine every night of the week like that lot did? How many working-class Australians go to listen to Hungarian string quartets? How many working-class Australians find the neorealist fabulism of the South American novel ‘sadly passé'. Those friends of yours were right on the cutting edge of middle-class trendiness, yet they kept telling me—not directly and honestly like their beloved working-class would—but subtly and snidely, that if I was a
real
writer I'd be tackling the problems of the real people in our society. The poor, the maimed, the halt and the blind. I must never, never write about the lifestyles
they
themselves were leading.
Pricks!
Loathsome, do-gooding, trendy pricks! Stuff them!

KATE
: Perhaps they felt it was a little self-indulgent to concentrate on the problems of the middle class when the problems of the disadvantaged are so much more acute.

COLIN
: I see. The middle class have no
real
problems. So how is it they manage to pack so many traumas and breakdowns into their sunny middle-class lives? How is it that they unerringly turn every relationship they embark on into the storyline of a soap opera?

KATE
: I don't think that comment's justified, Colin. Teresa's been married for eighteen years.

COLIN
: Yes, but has anyone ever
seen
Gavin in the last fifteen? I know he's supposed to be writing poetry upstairs, but my guess is that he's been in Kathmandu since the early seventies.

KATE
: [
finding his histrionics amusing
] Colin.

COLIN
: I know the middle class shouldn't have emotional problems—they're infinitely better off in a material sense than your average Third World villager—but for some perverse reason they successfully screw up their lives with great flair, and I find that interesting, and I'm going to keep charting their perturbations and try and make some sense of it all, and those chardonnay socialists of Melbourne aren't going to stop me!

KATE
: [
to the audience
] If I hated Sydney that much, why did I agree to come? In hindsight I suspect that there was something in me that responded to that odd, pulsing, garish city to the north. A reckless streak, a habit of getting quickly bored—I think that deep down I felt something might
happen
up here. And until it did I was in the happy position of having Colin to blame for all the misfortunes that befell us.

COLIN
: [
to the audience
] I shouldn't've been so bloody reckless. What kind of idiot uproots himself from a lifetime of connections for childhood memories of flame trees and jacarandas? Lunatic. But
was
it just that? Wasn't there a little grub in my soul hungry for the lionising and celebrity mania that grips the harbour city? Devouring my integrity until I drifted towards the sun and journalists who asked me what I'd like to see in my Christmas stocking and did I sleep nude?

KATE
exits.
COLIN
stands by himself. We hear the noise of cocktail party chatter.
MIKE
McCORD
approaches him.
MIKE
is a smartly-dressed man about the same age as
COLIN
. His hair is carefully swept up over his brow in a stylish sweep. His manner is abrupt, authoritative and conspiratorial, conveying the impression that he knows far more than anybody about everything.

MIKE
: Colin Rogers?

COLIN
: [
awkwardly
] That's right.

MIKE
: Mike McCord. Welcome to Sydney.

COLIN
: Thanks.

MIKE
: Seen any of his films?

COLIN
: [
not understanding
] Sorry?

MIKE
: [
inclining his head
] Our guest. The Hun.

COLIN
: No.

MIKE
: Don't rush. Best he's ever done is win a jury prize at the Dublin Film Festival, which places his talent pretty exactly.

COLIN
smiles and shakes his head.

COLIN
: Dublin.

MIKE
: None of his films have ever made a cent, so what does our Film Commission do? Throws a cocktail party for him.

COLIN
: I don't usually go to these things. Hate 'em.

MIKE
: Go to all the cocktail parties. Golden rule of Sydney life. Only time you ever learn anything. There are the McElroy brothers over there. Only non-identical twins you can't tell apart. Saw one of your old movies on video last weekend.

COLIN
: [
steeling himself against possible criticism
] Ah. Which one?

MIKE
:
Days of Wine and Whitlam
.

COLIN
: Ah.

MIKE
: Enjoyed it. Can't work out why the critics were so savage.

COLIN
: [
tense
] Most of the crits were very good.

MIKE
: [
shrugging
] Must have read one of the bad ones. No, I enjoyed it. Good entertainment.

COLIN
: [
bristling
] A little more than that, I hope.

MIKE
: End was a bit of a worry. I would've been inclined to tie up the loose ends.

COLIN
: [
curtly
] Loose ends were symptomatic of the times. You write yourself, do you?

MIKE
: Got some projects on the boil. Yep.

COLIN
: What sort of projects?

MIKE
: Contemporary action-adventure. Right for today's market.

COLIN
: [
tight-lipped
] That's what we all should be writing then, is it? Contemporary action-adventure.

MIKE
misses the sarcasm.

MIKE
: [
nodding
] Look around you. Yesterday's men. Cranking out pictures that nobody wants to see anymore. Slow pans over the vast outback. Pretty pictures. No action. No drama. It's about time we woke up to the fact that the little bit of history we've had has been so bloody dull there's no point trying to mythologise it. We've got to start making films that are hard-hitting, contemporary and international. Movies that'll work all over the world. What are you working on?

COLIN
: [
reluctantly
] Another script.

MIKE
: Is it going to be contemporary?

COLIN
: Recent history.

MIKE
: Given up on the middle classes?

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