After a three-year hiatus we were able to resume our very popular Saturday afternoon sessions at The Channel in the Arts Centre. Our first speaker on the 4 February 2023 was one of Melbourne’s favourite sons, Barry Dickins.
The Channel is situated at the side of Hamer Hall and we are able to combine with the Arts Centre to invite people of various connections to the theatre to give us an hour or so of their time to talk about their lives and work.
Barry chose to make his contribution through the means of an interview, in which Cheryl Threadgold OAM, led him to expound on his career from his earliest works.
Growing up in working class Melbourne, Barry’s main focus has been to spotlight the lives and times of people and events close to him. There would be few who have seen his work who would not be enlightened about Victoria’s capital and people.
Of course, by choosing to do this, Barry has not had a wider recognition through Australia and overseas which his writing deserves. Most of his plays (more than 50) have been produced by the smaller independent theatres, like The Pram Factory, La Mama and 45 Downstairs.
One of his award-winning plays was on the hanging of Ronald Ryan which he discussed in detail. This, Melbourne’s last hanging, was a seminal moment for most Victorians and Barry had talked to many of those who were involved in one way or another including Ryan’s widow, his priest, Father Brosnan, fellow inmates and prison warders ( who all attended a performance) to gain a perspective on what happened and allow the audience to form an opinion not only on Ryan but also on capital punishment.
The hour was up all too soon and we were only about half way through the career of this playwright. We were all delighted when he agreed to come back next year to give us the other half.
At the conclusion we issued the customary invitation to everyone to join us for a drink in one of the Southbank cafes and Barry with many of the audience did and the chatter continued for another couple of hours.
Photos by Malcolm Threadgold.