By Ray Lawler

Summer of the Seventeenth Doll

With Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, playwright Ray Lawler changed the way Australians see themselves reflected on stage –and arguably caused a major shift in the direction of Australian theatre.

In this edited discussion, Lili Wilkinson is joined by Ailsa Piper –a playwright and actor who met her husband whilst both were on the set of The Doll. They discuss the themes of youth, paradise lost, the local vernacular, Lawler’s characterisations of women and men – and why the play’s Australian setting belies its kinships with the great tragedies of literature.


Texts in the City goes digital: Summer of the Seventeenth Doll

Further reading

Watch the full discussion here.

Critics Alison Croggon and Ramona Koval also discussed the play for our Australian Literature 101 series. You can watch the video here.

Historian Michelle Arrow, drama scholar and author John McCallum, Belvoir Street Theatre artistic director Ralph Myers and Currency Press director Katharine Brisbane speak with presenter Andrew McLennan about the play for Radio National’s Playing the 20th Century series.

Jane Cousins critiques Summer of the Seventeenth Doll in Continuum: The Australian Journal of Media & Culture (1987).

The history of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll became available as an iPad app in 2013.

Find reviews and listed productions of the play at AusStage.

Ray Lawler

Ray Lawler is an Australian actor, dramatist and producer. His most notable play was his tenth, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (1953), which had its premiere in Melbourne in 1955. The play is credited with changing the direction of Australian drama, and was performed in London and New York.

The story of The Doll is preceded by Kid Stakes, set in 1937, when the characters of The Doll are young adults, and then Other Times, which is set in 1945 and includes most of the same characters.