Gow, Michael 1955-

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GOW, Michael 1955-

PERSONAL: Born 1955, in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Education: Sydney University, B.A., 1980.

ADDRESSES: Office—Artistic Director, Queensland Theatre Company, 78 Montague Road, P.O. Box 3310, South Brisbane, Queensland 4101, Australia. Agent—RGM Management, P.O. Box 128, Surrey Hills, New South Wales 2010, Australia.

CAREER: Playwright, director, and artistic director. Founder-member, Thalia Theatre Company, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; Sydney Theatre Company, associate director, 1991-93; Queensland Theatre Company, South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, artistic director, 1999—. Director of plays, including The Secret House, 1987; 1841, 1988; Away, 1989, 1992; Phedra, 1991; Furious, 1991, 1994; Women of Troy, 1992; Angels in America Part 1 and 2, 1992; Titus Andronicus, 1993; Oleanna, 1993; The Visit, 1993; Sweet Phoebe, 1994, 1995; Broken Glass, 1996; Live Acts on Stage, 1996; Fire on the Snow Day, 1996; Iphigenie en Tauride, 1997; The Birthday Party, 1997; Welcome to Broome, 1998; and Xpo: The Human Factor, 1998. Griffin Theatre Company, Sydney, chair of the board, 1986—; Australian Theatre for young people, board member, 1989-95.

AWARDS, HONORS: New Writers fellowship, 1986; New South Wales Premier's award, 1986, for Away, and 1995, for Sweet Phoebe; Sydney Theatre Critics Circle award, 1986, 1991; Green Room award for best play, 1986; Australian Writers Guild award, 1987; Australian Film Institute award for best script, 1988, for Edens Lost.



The Kid (three-act play; produced in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1983), Currency Press (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1983.

The Astronaut's Wife, produced in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1984.

Away (two-act play; produced in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1986), Currency Press (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1986.

On Top of the World (two-act play), produced in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1986.

Europe (one-act play; produced in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1987), Currency Press (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1988.

1841 (two-act play; produced in Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, 1988), Currency Press (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1988.

Furious (two-act play; produced in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1991), Currency Press (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1994.

All Stops Out (for children), produced in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1991.

Sweet Phoebe (one-act play; produced in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1994), Currency Press (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1995.

Live Acts on Stage (three-act play), produced in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1996.

The Fortunes of Richard Mahony, produced in South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 2002.

Also author of screenplays for ABC television, including Art 'n' Life, 1985, Edens Lost, 1988, and The Ten Commandments, 1997.

ADAPTATIONS: The Astronaut's Wife and Europe were adapted for radio plays.

SIDELIGHTS: Australian playwright and director Michael Gow "was considered the most exciting new writing talent in 1980s Australian theater," according to a contributor for Contemporary Dramatists. Since its first staging in 1986, his award-winning play Away has entertained and moved audiences from Australia to England and the United States. Gow has written almost a dozen plays since then for both the stage and television, and he has gone on to act as associate artistic director at the Sydney Theatre Company and as lead artistic director for the Queensland Theatre Company in South Brisbane, Australia.

Gow began his career as a playwright with the 1983 production of The Kid, an "extraordinarily assured debut," according to the Contemporary Dramatists essayist. The play deals with four kids in a stolen car who are headed for the social services office in Sydney, Australia. A background of Wagnerian music ties the story in to the epic "Siegfried" theme and Valhalla, or "the hall of the slain" in Norse mythology. On Top of the World followed in 1986, a blackly humorous family drama dealing with the children of a man who is dying of cancer and will not let anyone forget it.

Classical allusions again form part of the backdrop for Away, a play framed by a school production of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. The time is Christmas, 1967, and three families on summer holiday are thrown together. Each of these families is trying to overcome its own pain: a dead son in Vietnam, a terminally ill son, and a mother with severe neurosis. Reviewing a British production in 1993, Ach Smith of the London Guardian wrote that this Australian import is "not a satisfying play," though it is "entertaining, as far as its episodic naturalism takes it." David Petrarca, writing for the Chicago Tribune on an American production of the play, deemed Away a "moving tragicomedy," as well as a "beautifully crafted, gracefully touching work."

Gow turns to historical drama, mining Australia's penal-colony past in 1841, and then reverts to comedy for his description of Australia's connection to the art traditions of European high culture in Europe. With Furious, Gow uses classical Greek drama as inspiration, with reference to the Eumenides. He explores gay themes, as well as many others, in this play, with his protagonist, Roland, embarking on a love affair with a younger man named Chris. A change of pace for Gow came with 1994's Sweet Phoebe, an "Australian version of the yuppie nightmare," as Michael Billington described a 1995 production of the play in the Guardian. Ad-exec Frazer and interior designer Helen get more than they bargained for when sitting a friend's dog in this "mordant tract for the times," according to Billington.

More classical allusion is developed in Live Acts on Stage, a play written at the height of the Balkans War, with references to Greco-Roman myths, from Jason and the Golden Fleece, Orpheus and Eurydice to Ganymede and Hera and the Trojan War. Gow wrote the play for nine actors playing forty-five characters in one and a half hours. Gow's 2002 play, The Fortunes of Richard Mahony is equally ambitious, a distillation of the three novels in the historical cycle of the same name written by one of Australia's most famous female authors, Ethel Florence Lindesay Robertson, who wrote under the pseudonym Henry Handel Richardson. The novel draws from the life and adventures of Robertson's father and is set in the 1800s, when British colonies were being established in Australia. The trilogy of novels follow the experiences and times of a transplanted English doctor, Richard Mahony, as he establishes a new life for himself in Australia, marrying and building a fortune. But this rosy life soon falls apart, the fortune is lost, and Mahony descends into madness, leaving his wife, Mary, to care for him. Gow adapted these novels for the stage in an epic play that is both "powerful and captivating," according to Melinda Oliver, writing in TheBlurb.com.



Contemporary Dramatists, 6th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Simon, Luke, Michael Gow's Plays: A Thematic Approach, Currency Press (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1991.

Tibby, Jane, The NEAP Guide to Away, NEAP (Carlton, Victoria, Australia), 1997.


Chicago Tribune, June 6, 1997, David Petrarca, review of Away, p. 2.

Guardian (London, England), December 6, 1993, Ach Smith, review of Away; March 29, 1995, Michael Billington, review of Sweet Phoebe, p. T10.

Los Angeles Times, June 2, 1989, Nancy Chumin, "UCSD Theater Exchange Spurs Australian Invasion," p. 2.

Southerly, June, 1992, John M. Pearson, interview with Gow, pp. 116-131.


TheBlurb.com, http://www.theblurb.com.au/ (June 11, 2002), David Edwards, "Michael Gow Interview: Burying the Past"; (October 4, 2004) Melinda Oliver, review of The Fortunes of Richard Mahony.

On-Cue Online, http://www.oncueonline.com/ (September 27, 2004), "Profiles: Michael Gow."

Queensland Theatre Company Web site, http://www.qldtheatreco.com.au/ (September 27, 2004), "Michael Gow."

RGM Associates Web site, http://www.rgm.com.au/ (September 27, 2004), "Literature: Michael Gow."*