The Floating World by John Romeril
The first production newly appointed Artistic Director Rick Billinghurst directed indicated his commitment to Australian playwriting and established his credibility both as a talented director and one who would not be backing away from controversial material.
His choice was John Romeril’s new play The Floating World, which had premiered at Melbourne’s Pram Factory in 1974. The play’s context was a cruise-ship voyage to Japan by a former prisoner of war, Les Harding, who had experienced and witnessed the extreme brutality of the Japanese guards on the Burma-Thailand railway. Now a classic Australian play, in the 1970s it was considered a controversial play because of its difficult subject matter and profane and staged only by alternative companies. The Courier-Mail theatre critic David Rowbotham wrote that it was not only a smash bit for La Boite but “it signifies that Rick Billinghurst’s new appointment as the theatre’s first fulltime paid director is more than likely to be justified. Mr. Billinghurst has directed this play with exciting professionalism”.(April 24, 1976). He praised the “magnificent” performance of Errol O’Neill in the lead role and commented on the message of the play as “not a play of hate for an erstwhile enemy, but of infinite compassion for a young man who was once caught in it”.
Writer: Christine Comans