Back in August last year I wrote on this blog of the death of the Australian playwright Alex Buzo.
I did not have quite the same relationship with Alex as his friends such as Aarne Neeme or Bob Ellis. Rather, Alex was simply a known personal figure in my life for a very long while. The relationship began because of the friendship of our parents, our local links, our attendance at the same school and continued until his death when our youngest daughters were in the same class in Sydney. We had much to talk about simply because we had so much contact and liked each other.
Alex was born in Sydney and indeed escaped back there as soon as possible. Yet you can take the boy out of Armidale (and New England), but you cannot take Armidale (and New England) out of the boy. Close to his death, I had the pleasure of going with my Helen, my eldest also born in Armidale, to a reading of his plays at Currency Press. One of the plays really described Alex's escape from Armidale. A departure not in sadness, but in search of a broader life.
Armidale, and New England more broadly, have had an impact on Australian intellectual life far out of proportion to their relative sizes. This is something that deserves to be written about as part of Australia's intellectual history.
In Alex's case, Brian Mattingley, a teacher at The Armidale School, inspired him with a love of English as indeed he did me and many others. Alex carried Armidale with him always in his writing and in his personal life.
I did not understand until very recently why Alex gave up writing plays. During the time he was writing I bought every one as they were published. Then they stopped.
Alex was an Australian writer who loved (and criticised) the Australian vernacular. He presented Australia to Australians and with humour. There was too much humour and indeed personal tolerance for Alex (not that Alex was always tolerant!) to survive the message ridden environment that emerged during the seventies. I am not saying that Alex's plays did not have messages, simply that the play rather than the message was central.
Today, I think, there is more recognition of the value of Alex's work. For that reason, I was very pleased to learn that his daughter, Emma Buzo, has launched a new theatre company to celebrate his work.
Alex's love of theatre runs deep in his family. Emma herself has been involved for a long time as a teacher, producer and performer, while youngest daughter Genny is already a skilled performer.
To celebrate its launch and also raise funds, the new company's first performance will be Alex's riotous satire The Roy Murphy Show.
Directed by Laurence Cox with Emma as producer, the show will be held at the NIDA Parade Theatre in Kensington on Tuesday, September 4.
Consistent with its sporting theme, another of Alex's enduring loves, Roy Slaven and H G Nelson will be on hand to support the event. H G 's daughter is in fact in the same class as Genny Buzo and my daughter Clare.
As you might expect from Alex, the show is attracting people from the theatre through sport to a solid group of TAS old boys. At this stage, I think that this family will have three present.There will also be food, drink, live music and special guest stars as Roy and HG to support the show.
As you might expect from a fund raiding launch, the tickets are reasonably pricey, $100 per head or $90 for groups of 10 or more. But this is actually pretty reasonable in order to give Emma a war chest to get the new company off the ground.