Sanctuary (play)

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Written by David Williamson
Characters Bob King
John Alderston
Date premiered 1994
Original language English
Setting Queensland

Sanctuary is a 1994 play by Australian playwright David Williamson.


Sanctuary is a two-act play set in the Gold Coast retreat belonging to retired Australian foreign correspondent Robert 'Bob' King (late 40s). Mr King has lived a full life of charismatic success in the US reporting on stories from all around the world. His integrity comes under scrutiny in the play by its only other character, John Alderston (25), a student about to publish King's biography. John harbours a deep hatred for King because of his dishonesty throughout his career and failure to report on four major genocides.

It becomes apparent that through John's research he has compiled an account of King's life, and seeks to hold him accountable for unquestionable serving the American and International mass media. He argues that King sold himself out to Governments for cash, telling selected stories the way he was instructed to. He also mistreated his various wives and ignored larger world issues for the sake of his own success.

Williamson chiefly refers to Guatemala, East Timor, El Salvador and Cambodia as illustrations, but the focus is alway on King's integrity and how he let those stories go untold.

John's character is seen to become more and more complex as King probes back, uncovering a history of parental neglect and sexual abuse, which appears to be the sewing of John's hatred long ago. As the story unfolds violent arguments beak out and result in a savage beating, in which John temporarily blinds Bob at the end of the first act. the second act is composed of similar arguments as each challenges each other's true values.

Bob gives a good account of his life and attempts to pardon himself, while John (panicking over possible jail time for the assault) refuses to call emergency help for Bob (still blind). In the end Bob convinces John to call an ambulance, before another violent outburst sends John into a psychotic frenzy, in which he beats Bob to death with a ceramic sculpture.

The result is a thorough dissection of the shortcomings of the mass media, a detailed explanation of several world issues which had gone falsely reported or not reported at all, and a remotely humorous argument between two deeply disturbed people.


Directed by Robin de Crespigny
Produced by Andrew Steuart
Written by David Williamson
Based on the play by David Williamson
Starring Steve Bisley
Arky Michael
Spandau Films
Release date
Running time
90 mins
Country Australia
Language English

The play was filmed in the 1990s. Its setting was changed from the Gold Coast to Sydney.[1]


  1. ^ Ed. Scott Murray, Australia on the Small Screen 1970-1995, Oxford Uni Press, 1996 p136

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