fribble away


Away is a play by the Australian playwright Michael Gow. First performed by the Griffin Theatre Company in 1986, it tells the story of three internally-conflicted families holidaying on the coast for Christmas, 1968. It has become the most widely produced Australian plays of all time and is part of the Higher School Certificate syllabi or general High School Curriculum in many states, including Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria.

Each of the three families hopes that the holiday will resolve the crisis that they face. Roy, a headmaster, and Coral, his wife, realise that their marriage is falling apart as they grieve the death of their son in the Vietnam War. Tom, an English immigrant and a pupil at Roy's school, knows that he is dying of leukaemia even though his parents, Harry and Vic, have yet to tell him. Tom's family know that this could be their last holiday together, so they are determined to have fun. The third family comprises uptight, martyrish mother, Gwen, her husband, Jim, and their daughter, Meg, who has become friends with Tom courtesy of their mutual appearances in the recent school play. There is a mutual affection between Meg and Tom that is explored and challenged during a near sex scene, where Tom - aware that his life is soon to end - transforms into a desperate weeping puppy and begs Meg to "Let (him) do it to (her)". During a storm the three families find themselves thrown together on the beach that is the play's setting and their antagonism are exploded and resolved.

With the play's conscious nods to Shakespeare (it opens with the school's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream and ends with King Lear) Gow emphasises the performativity of individual human responses to death, racism, class, and relationships. Gow sees the play as largely autobiographical.

In 2005, a national Australian tour commemorated the play's 20th anniversary. It was a co-production with The Queensland Theatre Company and The Griffin Theatre Company. Michael Gow is now the Artistic Director of The Queensland Theatre Company and the return of 'Away' to the Griffin was a cause for great celebration. The production then embarked on a sold out national tour.

This play is deeply loved as part of Australian culture. It is interesting to note that when the play was performed in the USA, many Americans did not realize Australia had been involved in the Vietnam War. They did not realize that many young Australians were lost in the Vietnam conflict or how unpopular the war had been due to conscription.


  • Tom
  • Roy
  • Meg
  • Gwen
  • Jim
  • Coral
  • Harry
  • Vic
  • Leonie
  • Rick
  • Miss Latrobe


  • Beckett, Wendy. Michael Gow's Away (Glebe: Pascal Press, 1993)
  • Bramwell, Murray. 'Dreamtime', Adelaide Review, No.46 January 1988 : pp.21-22
  • Gay, Penny. 'Michael Gow's Away: the Shakespeare connection', Reconnoitres: Essays in Australian Literature in Honour of G.A. Wilkes 1992 pp.204-213
  • Gow, Michael (1986). Away. Sydney: Currency Press.
  • Hough, David. 'Away off the Mark', The Bulletin 1992, Vol.114 No.5838, 22 September. pp.82-83
  • Mitchell, Heather. Brodies notes on Michael Gow's Away (Sydney: Pan, 1988)
  • Payne, Pamela. 'Gow goes for less sentimentality, more power', Sydney Morning Herald 12 June 1992 : p16
  • Radic, Leonard. The state of play: revolution in the Australian theatre since the 1960s, (Ringwood: Penguin, 1991)
  • Webby, Elizabeth. 'Away', Modern Australian Plays 1990 pp.54-64


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