Rusty Bugles

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Rusty Bugles
Written by Sumner Locke Elliott
Date premiered 1948
Original language English
Setting Northern Territory during World War II

Rusty Bugles was a controversial Australian play written by Sumner Locke Elliott that toured extensively throughout Australia between 1948–1949 and achieved the notoriety of being closed down by the Chief Secretary's Office for obscenity.

Production History[edit]

It was first produced by Doris Fitton and Sydney's Independent Theatre company on 14 Oct 1948, and advertised as an "army comedy documentary".[1] The announcement of its ban was made J. M. Baddeley, Chief Secretary and acting Premier of New South Wales, on 22 October[2] but after initially defying the ban, Doris Fitton avoided a forced closure by commissioning a rewrite from the author.[3]

The Independent Theatre took the play, after an unprecedented 20-week run in New South Wales, to reopen The King's Theatre, Melbourne.[4] Meanwhile, another company was playing "Rusty Bugles" at Killara, so it was the first Australian play to run simultaneously in two States.[5] The words which were the subject of the ban gradually reappeared; no legal action was ever taken, though rewrites were demanded in different States.[6]

At the end of its record 6-month run in Melbourne, the production transferred to Adelaide, then returned to Sydney at the Tatler. But now critics were writing that it was being played for laughs, with the swearing self-conscious rather than part of the patois.[7]

The publisher of the play, Currency Press, quotes Elliott as saying that Rusty Bugles was 'a documentary... Not strictly a play... it has no plot in the accepted sense'. Locke Elliott did not foresee that shortly after this, the genre of the theatre of the absurd would be established as 'legitimate' a dramatic form where plot and the delineation of character are less important than the insight offered into the implicit drama of most human interactions.[8]

The Cast of Rusty Bugles (1948)[edit]

  • Des Nolan ("Gig") - John Kingsmill
  • Vic Richards - Ivor Bromley-Smith
  • Sergeant Brooks - Sidney Chambers
  • Rod Carsen - Ronald Frazer
  • Andy Edwards ("The Little Corporal") - Robert Crome
  • Otford ("Ot") - Alistair Roberts
  • Mac - Frank O'Donnell
  • Ollie - John Unicomb
  • Chris - Kevin Healy
  • "Darky" McClure - Lloyd Berrell
  • "Keghead" Stephens - Ralph Peterson
  • Corporal - doubled
  • Ken Falcon ("Dean Maitland") - Michael Barnes
  • First Private - Jack Wilkinson
  • Second Private - James Lyons
  • Bill Hendry (YMCA Sergeant) - Frank Curtain
  • Private - Peter Hartland
  • Jack Turner (Sigs Corporal) - doubled
  • Sigs Private - doubled
  • Sammy Kuhn - Kenneth Colbert

Film Version[edit]

Rusty Bugles
Directed by John Matthews
Produced by Alan Burke
Written by Alan Burke
Based on play by Sumner Locke Elliott
Starring Serge Lazareff
Graham Rouse
Ian Gilmour
Production
  company
ABC
Distributed by ABC
Release date(s) 1981
Running time 75 mins
Country Australia
Language English

The play was adapted by the ABC in 1981.[9]

References[edit]