Louis Esson


Louis Esson (1879–1943), influenced by W.B. Yeats, pursued the idea of Australian folk drama on the model of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Esson met W. B. Yeats and J. M. Synge while travelling, and both advised him, against his inclination, to stick to Australian subjects. Esson worked to establish a nationalist drama in which themes of working-class urban and bush life would become the basis for great international artistic achievements. After a second overseas trip (1916–1921) he founded the Pioneer Players with Hilda Bull (his second wife), Vance Palmer and others. The amateur company strove to bring Australian plays to the public and Esson struggled to supply most of its repertoire in 1922–23. Its last production was Esson’s The Bride of Gospel Place in 1926. The Time Is Not Yet Ripe (1912), a political comedy, is his best known work.

He turned his back on its early Shavian style to write simple ‘country comedies’ and dramas of the hard life in the outback. Dead Timber (1911), a gloomy picture of life on a small selection, The Drovers (1923) and Mother and Son (1923) set the tone for much of the grim outback drama of the 1930s and 1940s. Esson leant towards comedy in The Woman Tamer (1910), The Sacred Place (1912) and The Bride of Gospel Place, colourful portraits of low life in inner Melbourne. He died in 1943.

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