Feeble or forceful? Reappraising the 1950s in Australian performance


Lecture series hosted by the School of Communication and Arts, University of Queensland


“The period between 1950 and 1970 is often popularly considered one of cultural desolation in Australia” (Johanson & Rentschler 8), the years rendered inert by the dynamic decades that followed. Although we locate the crest of the ‘first wave’ of Australian theatre in the decade’s latter half, “in the popular imagination, it is seen as emblematic of an Australia that was […] static, complacent and monocultural” (Murphy & Smart 1). Our portrait of the 1950s in cultural production is obscured by “longstanding and popular ideas about the era as a time of gendered oppression and conservative stability” (Barnett 184). One of the decade’s most iconic cultural products, Barry Humphries, refers to it as the “feeble fifties” (134).

This lecture series takes aim at “the popular perception of the 1950s as a conversative counterpoint to later eventful decades” and “extends our sense of the dynamism and contest of the 1950s to its cultural world” (Barnett 185, 186). Distinguished speakers from around Australia will offer lectures on the performance spaces, dramaturgy, and performance makers of the 1950s that interrogate and reveal “the dynamic and disparate character of the decade” (Murphy & Smart 5). It forms part of “a growing movement to reconsider the quiet period of the 1950s” (Johanson & Rentschler 8), and seeks to reappraise the decade’s impact on the cultural production of the nation as forceful instead of feeble. View reference list. 




Please click on the individual event sessions below for more information and to register for in-person attendance.

Alternatively, you can register for online sessions to receive all Zoom links and passwords for the series.

Event Sessions

Friday 20 August, 12–1pm
Friday 17 September, 12–1pm
Friday 15 October, 12–1pm