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.