Article Title

War on the Waterfront - a banned play


Betty Roland


This play was originally published in the Communist Review, February 1939, 110–114. It was subsequently reprinted in Australian Dramatical Studies, 1986, 74–9. Betty Roland (1903–1996) was an Australian journalist, and author of books, plays, radio and movie scripts. She was a founding member of the Australian Society of Authors. During the late 1930s she was a leading contributor to the radical New Theatre in Sydney. Part of her literary output comprised short, topical, agitprop scripts which she regarded as a form of political cartooning. These scripts were regularly published in the organ of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA), Communist Review, edited by her partner of the time, Guido Baracchi, a founder of the CPA. War on the Waterfront was one of these agitprop pieces. It was intended for performance without props, utilising informal venues like the backs of trucks, factory canteens, footpaths. Hastily written early in December 1938, during the heat of the Pig-Iron dispute, it was eventually staged at the New Theatre (Sydney), and in Port Kembla. However plans to premiere the play to an audience of 2000 in Sydney’s Domain on December 11 created drama. The performance was closed by a police contingent after the first few lines had been delivered, and the actors each fined five pounds. Undeterred, the performers decamped to Watson’s Bay and gave a public open-air performance there. Official permission from the NSW Ministry of Agriculture, which controlled the Domain, was sought for a December 15 Domain performance, but this was refused; no reasons were given. Hence reference to this being a banned play in the Communist Review title.