Plays for Felons: Theatre in a Penal Colony 1796-1833
In 1796 a new theatrical site was created on the fringes of the British Empire. Convicted felons performed their own selection of plays in a ramshackle theatre in Sydney Town. The theatre was soon closed down, but the efforts to create a theatrical life in the penal colony persisted. In 1832 a "Theatre Royal" was opened by the brother of a convict, and an audience of convicts, former convicts and free settlers was presented with a selection of plays which helped shape a defiant and distinctively Australian identity. This paper explores the impact of a highly selective European theatrical repertoire in a penal colony and the ways in which theatre created a counter culture of self-assertive defiance.
Keywords: Theatre, Prisoners, Identity, Counter-Culture
Dr Margaret Lindley
Lecturer, School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania