Summer of the Seventeenth Doll

Set model for 'Summer of the Seventeenth Doll', Melbourne Theatre Company, 1995. Designed by Tony Tripp.

Ray Lawler’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll holds a special place in the hearts of Australian theatre-goers. In fact, when a new production premiered this week at Arts Centre Melbourne, The Age described how:

‘Four generations of eyes lit up at the opening night of the Doll; the excitement was palpable. Ray Lawler’s great Australian play is as relevant today as when it was written.’

The now legendary success enjoyed by ‘The Doll’ since its modest premiere at the Union Theatre in Melbourne in 1955 was unexpected by both playwright Ray Lawler and director John Sumner. At a time when British and American plays filled company repertoires and Australian actors undertook voice training to relieve them of their terrible Australian ‘accents’, here was a play about ordinary Australians written and spoken in the Australian idiom which moved audiences internationally (by way of a successful London season in 1957 and Hollywood film adaptation in 1959) with its melancholy story of love, youth and opportunity lost.

Since the 1950s, the Doll has continued to be studied and performed around the country and the Performing Arts Collection has continued to collect material that reflects the play’s changing interpretations. The Collection now includes Anne Fraser’s evocative designs for ‘The Doll Trilogy’ (Melbourne Theatre Company, 1977);

Costume design for Olive, 'The Doll Trilogy', Melbourne Theatre Company, 1977. Gift of Anne Fraser, 1996.

Costumes and props from the Melbourne Theatre Company’s 1995 production…

Prop kewpie doll, 'Summer of the Seventeenth Doll', Melbourne Theatre Company, 1995. Gift of Melbourne Theatre Company, 1995.

along with set models, lobby cards and programmes many of which are now available for viewing on our online catalogue.