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The Captains and The Kings


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“If only beauty were a weapon, then people would take it more seriously.” How well do we really know our families? How long will we leave things unsaid that should be aired? It was a time of change.

The time; 1968. The place; the O’Neill’s Guest House in Kempsey, New South Wales. The patriarch of the family, David is suffering from a terminal illness. His wife Caitlin has organized a family gathering for what will be their final Father’s day together. While Caitlin faces an unsure future, David is busy dealing with the ghosts of his past. For years he has distanced his daughters and now he has the chance to gain redemption.

“The Captains and The Kings” was shortlisted in the top seven of over ninety entries in the 1992 inaugural George Landen Dann Award. Its world premiere was presented by the Centenary Theatre Group Inc. in association with The Edge Theatre Company at Chelmer Hall, Brisbane, on 11 November, 1995.

Interview with the Author

Q - First question. Why should I read a stage play? Isn’t that boring?

A – I think a good story is a good story. People have been reading Ibsen, Chekhov and Shakespeare for ages primarily because they are explosive stories. And with this particular play, I sat at the back of the theatre each night watching the people. The story engaged with them.

At one performance, it came to a particularly intense part of the play in the second act and a woman in front of me reached into her bag and pulled out a tissue and started dabbing her eyes. For me, it was so satisfying to have reached another person on such an emotional level.

Q - What inspired you to write The Captains and The Kings?

A – Like my other plays, Goodbye Melaleuca, Sylvia Terry, A Kind of Belgium and even Spades, I am fascinated by the dynamics within the family. This work is primarily about fathers and in particular a father and his daughters. It involves drama, humour, conflict, betrayal, guilt and ultimately love.

With this play, I just got the line in my head, “This is 1968. There’s unrest and upheaval on five continents. We live within a hair’s breadth of having this planet reduced to ash. Yet you and I can sit here in this quiet little town on the east coast of Australia, and talk about something as insignificant as the beauty of a rose. If only beauty were a weapon, then people would take it more seriously.”

So I just jumped in my car and went on a travelling adventure south into northern New South Wales looking for a town and arrived at Kempsey and it just felt right. I spent a day in the library there reading 1968 newspapers, then came back and wrote the play.

Q - So, why should readers give this book a try?

A – I’ve had people read it before they decided to stage it and say, “This really made me cry.” Then when I saw the staging, the audience responded with laughing and crying. If you want to be engaged on an emotional level, I think this will work for you.

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