BURKE'S COMPANY

by Bill Reed

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BURKE'S COMPANY

by Bill Reed

The play is based on the tragic 1860 expedition of Burke and Wills. The first explorers to cross the continent from South to North, on the way back they suffered flukes of misfortune which led to their attenuated deaths in the desert through malnutrition. The play begins with the discoveries of their bodies by a search party. King, the third member of the advance party, is found barely alive, and the play then evolves from the delirium of his memories and the guilt-ridden imagination of Brahe, the man who was supposed to wait for the advance party to return to base at Cooper’s Creek and failed to do so. The playwright makes careful use of a pedal point of the confrontation of these two men at the rescue camp sick-bed after the tragedy. The Brechtian epic structure of the play undergoes an Artaudian sea change not only because of the shifting time-space locations of the desert trek but because of the obsessive time shifts through guilt and delirium. The scenes mesh together to form a frightening ceremonial of exhaustive indecision, fateful irony, forced endurance and final agony.