Authors: John Romeril

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Australian playwright and director

Author Works


A Nameless Concern, pr. 1968

The Kitchen Table, pr. 1968

Scene One, pr. 1969 (with John Minter)

The Man from Chicago, pr. 1969

The American Independence Hour, pr. 1969

Mr. Big, The Big, Big Pig, pr. 1969

In a Place Somewhere Else, pr. 1969

I Don’t Know Who to Feel Sorry For, pr. 1969

Chicago, Chicago, pr. 1970

Two Hundred Years, pr. 1970

Marvellous Melbourne, pr. 1970 (with Jack Hibberd)

Dr. Karl’s Kure, pr. 1970

The Magnetic Martian Potato, pr. 1971

Whatever Happened to Realism, pr. 1971

Mrs. Thally F, pr. 1971

Two Plays, pb. 1971 (includes The Kitchen Table and Brudder Humphrey)

Rearguard Action, pr. 1971

Hackett Gets Ahead, pr. 1972 (with Bill Hannan and Lorna Hannan)

He Can Swagger Sitting Down, pr. 1972

Bastardy, pr. 1972

A Night in Rio, and Other Bummerz, pr. 1973 (with Tim Robertson)

The Earth, Air, Fire, and Water Show, pr. 1973

Waltzing Matilda: A National Pantomime with Tomato Sauce, pr. 1974 (with Robertson)

The Floating World, pr. 1974, revised pb. 1982

The Golden Holden Show, pr. 1975

Dudders, pr. 1976 (with John Timlin)

The Radio-Active Horror Show, pr. 1977

The Accidental Poke, pr. 1977

Mickey’s Moomba, pr. 1979

Carboni, pr. 1980

700,000, pr. 1980

Samizdat, pr. 1981

Centenary Dance, pr. 1984

The Kelly Dance, pr. 1984

Definitely Not the Last, pr. 1985

Jonah, pr. 1985, revised pr. 1991 (music by Alan John)

Legends, pr. 1985 (with Jennifer Hill and Chris Anastassiades)

Koori Radio, pr. 1987

The Impostor, pr. 1987 (adaptation of Sha Yexin’s play)

Top End, pr. 1988 (with Robertson and Don Watson)

History of Australia, pr. 1989 (with Robertson and Watson)

Lost Weekend, pr. 1989

Black Cargo, pr. 1991 (adaptation of John Morrison’s short story)

The Reading Boy, pr. 1991

Working Out, pr. 1991

Bring down the House, pr. 1992

Doing the Block, pr. 1994

Hanoi-Melbourne, pr. 1995

Red Sun Red Earth, pr. 1995

Love Suicides, pr. 1997

Kate ‘N Shiver, pr. 1997

XPO, pr. 1998

Crowded House, revised pr. 1999

Acronetic, pr. 2000

Miss Tanaka, pr. 2001 (with David Bell, adaptation of Xavier Herbert’s short story)


One Night the Moon, 2001


Bonjour Baldwin, 1969

The Best of Mates, 1972

Charley the Chequer Cab Kid, 1973

The Great McCarthy, 1975 (adaptation of Barry Oakley’s novel)

Six of the Best, 1981-1982 (series)

Mr. Steam and Dry, 1986


John Henry Romeril (ROHM-ur-ihl) is one of Australia’s most prolific playwrights. He began writing plays while attending Monash University in Clayton, Victoria, Australia, from 1966 until his graduation with a bachelor of art with honors in English in 1970. After moving to Melbourne, Romeril quickly became an influential member of the Australian Performing Group, which staged its plays at the Pram Factory from 1970 to 1980.{$I[A]Romeril, John}{$I[geo]AUSTRALIA;Romeril, John}{$I[tim]1945;Romeril, John}

In Australia, the cultural climate of the early 1970’s was receptive to Romeril’s dramatic and political interests. State funding for the theater, which allowed young local dramatists to produce creative, controversial plays, began in 1968 with the foundation of the Council for the Arts, succeeded by the Australia Council since 1975. The young Romeril flourished.

At the Pram Factory, Romeril wrote his plays quickly, sometimes in collaboration with fellow playwrights, and focused on their effective production. He often directed, occasionally acted in his plays, and even helped build set designs. His quiet, professional, helpful, and unassuming manner made him one of the leaders of this artists’ collective.

From his beginnings, Romeril has been dedicated to working-class interests, left-wing politics, and collaborative production. The latter meant that the majority of his plays of the 1970’s and 1980’s have not been published. He wrote his plays for production, not for a reading audience. For all his political commitments, Romeril has always stressed the importance of entertaining his audience. Most of his plays include significant comic elements and no dour lecturing. Romeril attracted international attention in 1974 with The Floating World, his tragicomic play of a former World War II prisoner of war who travels on a cruise ship from Australia to Japan, homeland of the former enemy. The play earned for Romeril the first Australia-Canada Literary Award in 1976 and has seen many successful revivals. It remains one of Romeril’s best-known works.

After the breakup of the Australia Performing Group in 1981, Romeril continued to write for community theaters. His dramas focus on topical social issues, including the mistreatment of Aborigines in Koori Radio and class conflict in Australian society. By the 1990’s, Romeril had traveled widely in Japan and Southeast Asia and probed the relationship between Australian and Asian people. In 1995 The Floating World was selected for that year’s Japan-Australia Cultural Exchange Program and was performed in Tokyo with an all-Japanese cast. This inspired Romeril to work closely with dramatists from Asia during his term as chair of the Australian National Playwright Centre, which ended in 2000. In 1999, his Crowded House, which envisions a future in which the government is the enemy of children, was performed in Vietnamese in Ho Chi Minh City (the former Saigon).

After writing some television scripts in the 1980’s, Romeril’s first screenplay, One Night the Moon, won a 2001 Gold AWGIE Award for its sympathetic treatment of an Aborigine solving a murder mystery. His play Miss Tanaka was a huge hit at Melbourne’s Playbox Theater. Combining Hollywood tunes, Japanese drums, and films of the land of the Aborigine mother of the main character, it includes puppet play and male actors playing female parts and vice versa. Miss Tanaka won for Romeril the 2002 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award in the categories of play and community relations. Critics praised Romeril’s mastery of his subject, his craft, and his message. The play provides strong evidence that Romeril’s commitment to multimedia, internationally oriented, and politically engaged plays is bearing rich artistic fruits.

BibliographyGilbert, Helen. “Cultural Frictions: John Romeril’s The Floating World.” Theatre Research International 26, no. 1 (March, 2001): 60-70. Perceptive analysis of the original production of Romeril’s best-known play and the significance of changes made in subsequent revivals.Griffiths, Gareth, ed. John Romeril. Atlanta: Rodopi, 1993. A substantial collection of essays on Romeril’s work. Includes some of the best criticism of his early plays. Valuable insights into themes and concerns of Romeril’s prolific output.Robertson, Tim. “Romeril’s Art of Work.” In The Pram Factory: The Australian Performing Group. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2001. The whole book is dedicated to an up-close description of life and work at the Pram Factory, by one of its former members who also cowrote some of Romeril’s plays. The chapter on Romeril offers an insider’s account of Romeril’s activities as one of the driving forces of this alternative theater collective.Sawada, Keiji. “The Japanese Version of The Floating World: A Cross-Cultural Event Between Japan and Australia.” Australasian Drama Studies 28 (April, 1996): 4-19. Excellent analysis of the 1995 Japanese version of Romeril’s play. Includes a study on audience reaction in Japan, with members of the audience interviewed about their reaction to the play.Tompkins, Joanne. “Re-orienting Australian Drama: Staging Theatrical Irony.” ARIEL 25, no. 4 (October, 1994): 117-133. Includes a significant discussion of Romeril’s attempts to alienate the audience from his anti-hero Les Harding in The Floating World.
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