Behind the Scenes
Viking, Penguin Group Australia, 2009.
I was intrigued, It was a challenge.
‘It wouldn’t be a hagiography,’ I warned them.
‘Of course not,’ said the publisher.
‘I don’t see why not,’ said David.
I said I’d think about it.
The woman who knows him best describes the life of –and life with-Australia’s most beloved playwright.
The result is a picture of remarkable intimacy, vividness and honesty, the portrait not only of a writer, but of a family and a marriage.
David Williamson has been in the public gaze for almost forty years. Plays such as Don’s Party, The Removalists, The Club and Emerald City – and films such as Gallipoli have made him a national treasure. Equally visible on the political stage, Williamson has been famously anti-Vietnam and pro-Whitlam, the confidant of Paul Keating and scourge of John Howard.
Pardoxically, though, Williamson’s private life has been even more public. He has made his plays out of it. No one knows that better than Kristin, his wife of thirty five years. In this book she tells us what has gone on behind the scenes.
The Williamsons have lived at the heart of their times: from the radical Carlton scene of the 1960s, through the sexual experimentation of the 1970s, to the Emerald City of the 1980s and 1990s, and now as the Queensland sea changers of the new century. Kristin chronicles the events and people that inspired the plays, and tells the backstage stories, from La Mama to Madonna. But she also writes frankly about meeting David and the two divorces that ensued, the anxieties and rewards of raising a blended family, the period of their open marriage, and the challenge of being a working mother while playing peace-maker to Australia’s most famous literary brawler.
A Tale of Two Convicts
University of Queensland Press, 2003.
In 1820 Mary Jones is wrongly convicted of a crime committed by her best friend. From their first encounter as domestic servants in Kent, the two women were unlikely friends, opposite in every way –Mary trusting, generous and kind, and Maria ruthless, manipulative and feisty. But their lives are changed forever when Mary is transported from the tranquillity of rural England to the alien environment of colonial Australia.
Assigned to a wealthy Scottish merchant in Sydney’s notorious Rocks area, Mary works hard to make her mark as a respectable woman. But after a terrible betrayal she is imprisoned at Parramatta’s infamous Female Factory. Here she is unexpectedly reunited with her old friend Maria, who has adopted a new identity to avenge her past.
The two friends’ destinies entwine through England, New Zealand and Australia over two decades, bringing them fortune, love and loss.
Penguin Books, Australia, 1998.
In the spring of 1954, in the small seaside town of Skinner’s Bluff, Anna Danielssen is filled with hope for the future. From the tower of her family’s ramshackle house overlooking the sea, she dreams of the world beyond.
Anna’s mother, Katharine, is a talented musician, regarded by the locals as eccentric. Her sister Charlotte is beautiful, bored and so desperate to leave home she will marry the first man who asks. The two youngest children retreat to a fantasy world of their own. It’s up to Anna to keep the family together – or is it? What of their father, whose name is never mentioned?
The Story of a Remarkable Family’s Fight against Apartheid.
Viking, Penguin Books Australia, 1997.
In 1976 in a small town of South Africa, four white brothers broke all the rules when they took part in the country’s first mixed-race rugby match. For Gavin, Ronnie, Valence and Cheeky Watson it was the beginning of the realisation of a dream to break down the walls of apartheid. Through a series of events that subjected them to enormous physical and psychological tests, and threatened their home, their families and their lives, they became underground ANC operatives who helped lead the struggle to unite a nation.
After ten years research both in and outside South Africa, Kristin Williamson has written the remarkable story of four unassuming brothers who attempted to achieve the impossible. The Watsons are not just brothers in blood, but brothers in spirit with their land and its people. Their story will move and inspire you.
McPhee Gribble, Penguin Books Australia, 1995.
Meg, Sally and Virginia share a special friendship begun at university in the early 1960s. Idealistic, talented and ambitious, thirty years on they lead very different lives.
Meg, editor of a radical independent newspaper, is confronted by an angry young woman from her past who is determined to make Meg suffer.
Sally juggles the demands of a promising writing career and those of her adolescent sons. She is about to make a final break with her estranged husband when he makes a request she finds impossible to refuse.
Virginia, having finally realised her dream to build an art gallery in the Queensland rainforest, is almost wiped out by a cyclone. As she seeks to rebuild her life, she finds an unexpected and very special love.
McPhee Gribble, Penguin Books Australia, 1992.
It’s 1962. Talented, hopeful and full of the bravado that wards off fear, Meg, Sally and Virginia hitchhike north to sleep on beaches, plan their futures and fantasise about a place in the bush where they can meet once a year.
Twenty-five years later nothing is as they imagined it would be. Meg, an investigative reporter, is distressed by her childlessness and fighting her attraction for an opportunistic film producer. Virginia has fled her artist-lover to set up a commune in far north Queensland. Sally, a teacher and mother, has been left by the husband she has devoted over twenty years to.
Based on the screenplay
by Kristin Williamson and David Williamson.
McPhee Gribble/Penguin Books
with The Australian Children’s Television Foundation. 1988.
On her fourteenth birthday, Kate thinks she’s the luckiest girl in Sydney. She is talented, popular, has doting parents, and her birthday present is a seven metre yacht named ‘Princess Kate’. Then her world begins to fall apart and Kate defies everyone…
Kate swung around to confront them both.. ’You don’t even care that I found her, do you?’
‘Frankly, no,’ said Anne.
Kate turned on her angrily.
‘That’s enough!’ Bob looked distressed. ’She can’t dump you when you were born and suddenly decide she wants you now.’
Based on the television series written by
David Williamson and Denis Whitburn.
Lansdowne, Sydney 1984.
‘We are the last bastion between the Japanese and the west coast of America. If you let us fall, America itself is in danger.’
This appeal, broadcast by Australia’s Prime Minister John Curtin to the United States in 1942, signalled the greatest crisis in Australia’s history.
The Last Bastion is the story of a major power struggle, with bitter conflict between Canberra, London and Washington. The most important figures are Curtin, Menzies, Roosevelt, Churchill, MacArthur and Blamey.
Drawing on both published and unpublished documents from Australian, British and US sources, some of which had only recently been released, Kristin Williamson has imaginatively recreated the events of the three most crucial years in the history of Australia.