Pause while everyone waits for the next line NORTON: This is a load of fucking shit. WATTS: Mike, can't you just-- NORTON: I'm telling you, it's shit! To KEATON Like, who the fuck do you think you are? He's just about to hit NORTON when his producer, ZACH GALIFIANAKIS, runs in GALIFIANAKIS: Guys, guys, cool it. NORTON: My point's pretty fucking simple. NORTON: Well, I've been thinking about that and I can tell you right now. NORTON: Summer of the Seventeenth Doll. KEATON: Look, what the fuck has this got to do with us? There are these two cane-cutters, Barney and Roo-- GALIFIANAKIS: Cane-cutters? KEATON: I don't-- NORTON: So like I said, they were really good in their day. Riggan plays Roo. He gestures at KEATON I play Barney. GALIFIANAKIS: who has been consulting his iPhone Look Mike, this won't work. GALIFIANAKIS tries to accompany him in, but KEATON slams the door in his face. Then he squares up and turns to the opposite wall, where there is another poster for the Carver play THE VOICE OF BIRDMAN: Do it. The words blur and run, then reform as Summer of the Seventeenth Doll THE VOICE OF BIRDMAN: That's better.
Anyway, the Melbourne Theatre Company are currently doing a production of this play and before going off to see it the other night I told my brother I was going and he asked what it was about. There are a couple of blokes who work for seven months of the year in North Queensland cutting sugar cane. It is five months of really living her man comes out of the sun and has lots of money and lots of time and they live it up. Except, this year her man hasnt got lots of money as he couldnt bring himself to work because he was no longer the top gun. The play is also really interesting from the perspective of Australian and Melbourne history.
Its UK premiere was backed by Laurence Olivier, won the Evening Standard award for best new play of the year - 1957 - and went on to a six month season. When the play next had its US premiere, it was backed by The Theatre Guild.
Both the play and the production will stay in my mind for a long time.
For sixteen years two Melbourne women, friends and co-workers at a local pub, have played hostess to two Queensland men, cane cutters who come south each December to escape the wet season. Every year, the men present Olive with the gift of a Kewpie doll, which she greatly prizes and keeps as a memento of their fun times together. In Year 17, things are different: some months previously one of the women, Nancy, has left the house to get married, and one of the men, Roo, arrives flat broke, having walked away from his job some weeks earlier. Olive has arranged for her friend and fellow barmaid, Pearl, to move into Nancys room in the hope that she and Barney will hit it off and resume the kind of happy-go-lucky lifestyle the two couples previously enjoyed. The plays enduring value lies more in its capacity to illuminate a part of recent Australian history, and to present us with a damning critique of the conservative thinking of the 1950s.
The symbol of the play is a kewpie doll that Roo has brought back for Olive; a tradition that has been alive as long as their acquaintance. It is especially apparent in Olives refusal to conform to the stereotypical woman in the 50s; she works in a bar, shuns marriage, and lives in sin for five months of the year.
An intriguing character study of unorthodox, Australian lifestyle in a vivid 1950's Australia.