Jack Hibberd

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the Canadian politician, see Jack Hibberd (politician).
Jack Hibberd
Born John Charles Hibberd
(1940-04-12) 12 April 1940 (age 76)
Warracknabeal, Victoria
Nationality Australian
Alma mater University of Melbourne
Period 1967–2012

John Charles "Jack" Hibberd (born 12 April 1940 in Warracknabeal, Victoria) is an Australian playwright and doctor.


Hibberd studied medicine at the University of Melbourne, and resided in Newman College. He worked as a registrar in the Department of Social Medicine at St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne, in 1966/67. He worked as a general practitioner until 1984, then practised as a clinical immunologist. He is married to the actress Evelyn Krape, and a father to Lily (1972) and James (1974) from a first marriage, and to Spike and Molly.

Hibberd co-founded the Australian Performing Group (APG) in 1970. He was a member for ten years, and chairman for two. In 1983 he founded the Melbourne Writers Theatre, which is still active. He served on the Theatre Board of The Australia Council twice, and recently on its Literature Board.


Hibberd has written close to 40 plays, some of them not full length. His first play, White With Wire Wheels, was staged in 1967 at the University of Melbourne, and is a proto-feminist revenge play, which satirizes male herd behaviour and the men's obsession with cars and alcohol-virility over women.

Hibberd's micro-play, Three Old Friends, opened the legendary La Mama theatre in Melbourne (29 July 1967). This work was one of a number of very short works in which Hibberd reconnoitred the styles of Beckett, Pinter and Brecht. These, plus a couple of longer plays (Who and One of Nature's Gentlemen) made up a season called Brain-Rot (1968).

There followed Hibberd's most popular play: Dimboola, a wedding breakfast farce with audience participation. It was a huge commercial success in the early 1970s, and holds the Australian record for the longest continuous run of a play (two and a half years). It still enjoys some 20 productions a year.

His next play, a long monodrama, A Stretch of the Imagination, is regarded by most connoisseurs as his finest work, embodying a radical advance in the character of Australian theatre, embracing and remoulding as it does many of the strong strands in theatrical modernism. The actor who plays Monk O'Neill has to be a virtuoso. Stretch was the first Australian play to be staged in China (in Mandarin) with a famous Chinese actor Wei Zong Wan as Monk. The production packed a large theatre for six weeks. This play has enjoyed productions in the United States, Germany and New Zealand. In 2010 it was performed in London by Mark Little, a winner of the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award.

Hibberd has completed some stage adaptations of short stories: Gogol's The Overcoat(with music), De Maupassant's "Odyssey of a Prostitute" (an epic gothic monstrosity), and Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych. The Gogol was the first Australian play to be done in Indonesia.

Hibberd's most challenging plays are his monodramas, in which he specializes. Those for women include Female Rhapsodies (sub-titled 'curtain-raisers'), Lavender Bags and Mothballs. The first entails a preparation for a wedding (a fantasy performance), the second explores the fine public face of grief and its ugly private underbelly. Apart from Stretch, there is a gargantuan male on monodrama, From Apes to Apps, subtitled A History of the Western World in Ninety Minutes, which indeed it is.

Among others might be mentioned Bedlam Ballads, two linked incarceration plays, one for females, the other for males. They resemble psychiatric research and torture oubliettes, and have overtones of USSR institutions and Guantanamo Bay. Domestic Animals embraces a ghastly dysfunctional marriage, and enjoys echoes of Strindberg's Dance of Death. Legacy sees for siblings in a family crypt warring nastily over their recently deceased will. Blood Bath and The Crown Versus Alice Springs deal with poverty and indigenous injustice. Trios addresses two dysfunctional families. In The Prodigal Son the father is a monster, and in The Dutiful Daughter the father is a monster. An Evening with Elizabeth Bowen and Sean O'Faolin are again stage adaptations of stories. Slam Dunk entails conflict between two adolescent redneck chainsaw addicts and an adolescent conservationist and poetry lover.

Peggy Sue, a companion to White with Wire Wheels, dramatizes the mistreatment and exploitation of three romantic young women during a severe economic depression when they are compelled to work as prostitutes. Liquid Amber is a companion to Dimboola, and has audience participation at golden wedding celebration. A Toast to Melba and The Les Darcy Show embraces the lives of the famous diva Nellie Melba and the champion boxer Les Darcy. Repossession concentrates on the conflicts between two poor young women who live in a shack out in the bush and two domineering corporate captains who, stranded, turn up for the night.

Hibberd's recent plays are Commandments, in which five of the ten Commandments are inverted, or perverted, so that the breaking of a commandment becomes ethically justified. And Guantanamo Bay, which is set in that institution and is visited by President George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz because it is "Open Day at Guantanamo Bay", and, to begin the celebrations, there is a performance of The History of American Violence...a play within a play. The guests watch some examples of the artistry of contemporary torture. Later they are joined by Tony Blair and John Howard, Australia's "Man of Steel". Fidel Castro appears as an interlude. A waiter called Malcolm X causes great distress among the American dignitaries.

Finally, Hibberd has a work underway called Time is of the Essence, and features Methuselah on his 1000th birthday when he is visited by Eve, the Queen of Sheba, Cleopatra, Salome, and Zenobia. They dance around him at the end to celebrate his majority. Hibberd has also completed a revision of Dimboola, updating the text and providing numerous lyrics for songs and choruses. A director and composer are in hand, and a production is anticipated early next year. He is now putting the final touches to Three Sapphic Plays.

Selected works[edit]


  • White With Wire Wheels (1967)
  • Memoirs of a Carlton Bohemian (1967)
  • Brainrot (1968) – "The Great Gap of Time", "No Time Like the Present", "One of Nature's Gentlemen"
  • The Last Days of Epic J. Remorse (aka Death Rattle) (1968, revised 1994)
  • Dimboola (1968)
  • Customs and Excise aks Proud Flesh
  • Klag (1970)
  • Aorta (1971)
  • Marvellous Melbourne (1970)
  • A Stretch of the Imagination (1972)
  • Women
  • Captain Midnight, VC (1972, revisd 1984)
  • The Les Darcy Show (1974)
  • Peggy Sue (1975)
  • A Toast to Melba (1975)
  • The Overcoat Sin (1977)
  • Sin (1978)
  • A Man of Many Parts (1979)
  • Mothballs (1980)
  • Liquid Amber (1982)
  • Glycerine Tears (1982)
  • Malarky Barks (1983)
  • The Old School Tie (1983)
  • Odyssey of a Prostitute (1984)
  • Slam Dunk (1984)
  • Lavender Bags (1985)
  • Female Rhapsodies (1986)
  • The Prodigal Son (1990)
  • The Dutiful Daughter (1993)
  • Legacy (1997)
  • Repossession (1998)
  • A History of the Western World in Ninety Minutes (1998)
  • The Death of Ivan Ilych (1999)
  • The Crown vs Alice Springs (2001)
  • An Evening with Elizabeth Bowen and Sean O'Faolin (2002)
  • The Spanish Dancer (2004)
  • The Second Coming (2007)
  • Commandments (2009)
  • Guantanamo Bay (2009)

Published plays and editions[edit]



Musical theatre[edit]


Over the years Hibberd has also published short stories and essays on theatre.


Miss Finger

A nocturnal thriller set in Melbourne. Miss Finger, a forensic scientist turns detective after her two children die of overdoses. With the help of a suave Sydney detective, she weaves her way through Melbourne's unsavoury and ethnically diverse underground, finally finding and nailing the Big Drug Baron, a toad-featured Australian Vietnam Vet, who originally went AWOL into the Golden Triangle.

Captain Midnight VC

Midnight is a VC winner from World War Two, but is denied a soldier settlement post-war because of his sooty complexion. He becomes an Aboriginal radical and an agitator for Black Power. He enlists the aid of black Americans and Africans, who infiltrate Australia, bomb Parliament House killing all its members, and seducing paddocks of white women. A deal is finally attained: all white Tasmanians are exiled to the mainland, and those urban and landless indigenes take over Tasmania, which they name Trugininiland.

Uncle Sam

Uncle Sam, who has been wrongfully incarcerated in the Hollywood Hospital for the Psychiatrically Challenged, escapes with the help of Charlie Chan, and begins a presidential campaign, assisted by an unlikely and incredible electoral team, including, among others, Black Hawk, Davy Crockett, Paul Bunyan, Mark Twain, Superman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Zapata, George Washington, Janis Joplin, Curt Cobain, Rabbi Harpo Marx, and Mr Ed. To cut a long narrative short, Uncle Sam's truly liberal and leftish platform, along with his witty savaging of his two opponents and avaricious corporations in a television debate, leads to a refreshing and volcanic victory.


Singing the Seventies A six-part series embracing the culture of the Seventies. Each episode is situated in a different Melbourne suburb. Each episode devotes itself to a particular profession of occupation. For example, Carlton is theatre; the CBD, finance; South Melbourne, the media, etc. There are number of through-characters who bind the free-standing episodes together.


  • State Library Of Victoria Creative Fellowships 2005[3]


  1. ^ *The Overcoat / Sin at the National Library of Australia
  2. ^ Smash hit! by George Dreyfus at the Australian Music Centre
  3. ^ "Media Release". State Library of Victoria. 27 June 2005. Archived from the original on 23 March 2008. Retrieved 29 March 2008. 


  • McGillick, Paul (1988). Ortrun Zuber-Skerritt, ed. Jack Hibberd (Google Books). Australian Playwrights. Rodopi. ISBN 90-5183-003-3. Retrieved 29 March 2008. 

External links[edit]