Category Archives: Live theatre

Dressed up and recording the Hills Family Radio Show: exclusive photos

“The Hills Family Show” was arguably the most popular and critically acclaimed theatre production by the Australian Performing Group. (More memorabilia from this production will be posted on this site later.)

The fact that the APG recorded a version of the Hills Family Show for radio seems to have been overlooked in written accounts of the APG.

The in-costume recording took place at the Pram Factory Theatre in Carlton on Saturday, 3 July 1976. (Max Gillies’ injured arm is real!) I believe the recording was aired on community radio station 3CR, Melbourne. Over the next few weeks I will be posting here my 20 exclusive photos of the event. (I’m almost certain that I was the only person at the event with a camera.) Peter J Keenan 25/6/2014.

Number of photos posted to 8/9/2014 = 15

Photo 1 – Max Gillies, Sue Ingleton, Tony Taylor, Fay Mokotow, Robert Meldrum, Evelyn Krape and Bill Garner, July 1976

All dressed for recording

Photo 2 (below) – Evelyn Krape and Fay Mokotow, July 1976

Hills Krape Mokotow

Photo 3 (below) – Jon Hawkes, juggling on radio, July 1976

Jon Hawkes juggling

Photo 4 (below) – Susy Potter, making sounds with her feet, July 1976

Susy Potter

Photo 5 (below) – Jack Weiner and Sue Ingleton tickle the ivories, July 1976


 Weiner and Singleton


Photo 6 (below) – Sue Ingleton, July 1976

Sue Ingleton by herself

Photo 7 (below) – Fay Mokotow and Robert Meldrum, July 1976

Fay and Robert dancing

Photo 8 (below) – Tony Taylor and Max Gillies, July 1976. (In background: Lloyd Carrick, sound recordist, Sue Ingleton, Robert Meldrum and Bill Garner.)

Tony and Max

Photo 9 (below) – Fay Mokotow and Max Gillies, July 1976.
Fay and Max

Photo 10 (below) – Evelyn Krape, July 1976

Evelyn Krape at mike

Photo 11 (below) – Robert Meldrum, Sue Ingleton, Evelyn Krape, Tony Taylor, Max Gillies and Bill Garner, July 1976

Several at mikes

Photo 12 (below) – Tony Taylor, Jack Weiner, Bill Garner and Max Gillies, July 1976

Four Hills

Photo 13 (below) – Max Gillies, July 1976

Max Gillies

Photo 14 (below) – Bill Garner, July 1976

Bill Garner

Photo 15 (Below) – Fay Mokotow and Robert Meldrum, July 1976

Fay and Robert

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Australian Performing Group Actors Agency brochure 1975

This is the second brochure prepared by the Actors Agency run by the APG . It was prepared in 1975 and contains photographs and short biographies of the following actors, with a page allocated to each:

Joe Bolza, Eileen Chapmen, Jane Clifton, Roz deWinter, Claire Dobbin, Bill Garner, Neil Giles, Max Gillies, Sue Ingelton, Evelyn Krape, Wilfred Last, Yvonne Marini, Robert Meldrum, Fay Mokotow, Greig Pickhaver, Carol Porter, Susy Potter, Michael Price, Tim Robertson, Tony Taylor and Bob Thorneycroft.

Joe BolzaEileen ChapmanJane CliftonRoz deWinterClaire DobbinBill GarnerNeil GilesMax GilliesSue IngeltonEvelyn KrapeWilfred LastYvonne MariniRobert MeldrumFay MokotowGreig PickhaverCarol PorterSusy PotterMichael PriceTim RobertsonTony TaylorBob Thorneycroft Red line small


Larger venue causes mixed reaction to “Melba” production at National Theatre

After the Australian Performing Group performed “A Toast to Melba” in Adelaide to critical and popular acclaim, it moved the production to the much larger National Theatre in St Kilda, opening on 1 April 1976. Not everyone was as impressed. Here are reviews by Keith Dunstan (The Sun), Kit Neilson, Garrie Hutchinson (The Australian), L.R. (The Tribune), Colin Talbot (Nation Review), Ian Marshall, Leonard Radic (The Age), and The Southern Cross, together with some publicity pieces from the Melbourne Sun.






Kit Neilson part 1
Kit Neilson Part 2



Hutchinson April 76



Tribune 1976



Talbot april 76 part 1
Talbot April 76 part 2



Marshall April 76



Radic April 76 part1
Radic April 76 part2
Radic April 76 Part 3
Radic April 76 part 4
Radic April 1976 part 5
Radic April 76 part 6



Southern cross april 76



Publicity heading
Photo of Evelyn
Publicity blurb april 76




High praise from critics for “A Toast to Melba” at 1976 Adelaide Festval

The Australian Performing Group performed “A Toast to Melba”, its new play by Jack Hibberd, at the Adelaide Festival of Arts in March 1976 and received high praise from critics. Here are the reviews by Leonard Radic (The Age), Garrie Hutchinson (The Australian), Andre Jute (Nation Review) and The Bulletin’s critic.


The Age, 13 March 1976

Leonard Radic part 2
Leonard Radic part 3
Leonard Radic part 4_______________________________________________

The Australian, 8 March 1976


Nation Review, 26 March 1976




The Bulletin part 1

Bulletin part 2

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Programme-booklet for “A Toast to Melba” by Jack Hibberd at the National Theatre in 1976

This is a copy of the programme/booklet for the APG’s production of “A Toast to Melba” performed at the National Theatre in St Kilda for 4 weeks from 1 April 1976. It includes photos of Claire Dobbin, Peter Finlay, Max Gillies, Paul Hampton, Jack Hibberd, Evelyn Krape, Fay Mokotow, Tony Taylor and Jack Weiner, and the names and descriptions of the various real and fictional characters they played. The photos appear to have been taken by Jane Clifton. (“A Toast to Melba” premiered at the Adelaide Festival (Theatre 62) in March 1976.)

Cast List
Claire Dobbin
Peter Finlay
Max Gillies
Paul Hampton and Jack Weiner
Jaxk Hibberd
Evelyn Krape
Fay Mokotow
Tony Taylor
About the play
Coming shows
About the APG

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“Yours for the Masking” and “How Grey was my Nurse” in 1976

Presented as a double bill at the Pram Factory theatre, “Yours for the Masking” and “How Grey was my Nurse” ran from the 23/1/76 to 22/2/76. The images that appear here are: a display advertisement for the production; the first two pages of a programme prepared for those attending; a newspaper photograph for promotional purposes; a review of the two shows by Robin Prentice for the Nation Review; and a photo by me of the Pram Factory theatre in February 1976.

Display advertisement

Display advertisement

Programme Page 1

Double bill programme: page 1

Programme Page 2

Double bill programme: Page 2

Promotional photograph

Promotional photograph.


Review in Nation Review


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“Pramocracy – The Alternative Theatre in Carlton”, by John Timlin, 1974-75

John Timlin

John Timlin, pictured with son, Michael, in September 2007. Photo by Craig Sillitoe. The Age, 2/9/2007.

 Written by John Timlin, “Pramocracy – The Alternative Theatre in Carlton”,  has long been an important source for researchers and writers looking at the history of the Pram Factory Theatre and the Australian Performing Group.

For most of the 1970s,  John Timlin was the APG’s  publicist and quasi administrator. He also acted as agent for several writers, including Jack Hibberd and John Romeril.

“Pramocracy” (as it has become known) appears to have been written a few months after the Federal Election held in May 1974, for Timlin refers to that election as if it had occurred fairly recently.  (At that election Gough Whitlam’s Labor Party was returned to Government following a double dissolution.) At the time the APG was, according to Timlin, suffering an “identity crisis”.

The document published below in its entirety is a dog-eared draft of “Pramocracy”  with John’s handwritten heading and alterations on it.

Pramocracy 01
Pramocracy 02
Pramocracy 03
Pramocracy 04
Pramocracy 05
Pramocracy 06
Pramocracy 07
Pramocracy 08
Pramocracy 09
Pramocracy 10
Pramocracy 11
Pramocracy 12
Pramocracy 13
Pramocracy 14
Pramocracy 15
Pramocracy 16
Pramocracy 17
Pramocracy 18
Pramocracy 19
Pramocracy 20
Pramocracy 21
Pramocracy 22
Pramocracy 23
Pramocracy 24
Pramocracy 25
Pramocracy 26
Pramocracy 27
Pramocracy 28
Pramocracy 29
Pramocracy 30
Pramocracy 31
Pramocracy 32

Other versions of the paper

(added to this blog on 28/8/2013)

A least one other version of this paper – with additional paragraphs and with paragraphs deleted – has been published elsewhere. The version published on the Pram Factory website (developed by Sue Ingleton) and published in The Way Out magazine (which now appears on its website), has the following additional paragraphs appearing at the end:

“This seeming masochism is, however, germane to democratic participation; workers’ control of the theatre. The fact of stardom, fame etc. cannot entitle one person to have a vote affecting the lives of others whilst they are, possibly, so distant from the theatre as to be ignorant of the issues, arguments and personalities.

The Collective has, in this respect, tightened somewhat – if a member is absent from four consecutive monthly Collective meetings, membership (subject to appeal) lapses and the privilege of priority for employment disappears. This, of course, allows us to change;; those who opt for the security and comparatively high pecuniary rewards of lengthy film, television or theatre contracts are exercising their choice and, by so doing, effectively resigning and creating space for others, thus injecting new blood and, potentially a new theatricality into the Group.

Somehow, for journalists, Arts Council people and theatre workers outside, there is something difficult about accepting the actuality of democratic control in the APG. They want to believe in leaders, authority figures, etc. They find the oppositionist stridency of the APG somewhat uncomfortable, the postures that emerge from its moral well-spring difficult to live with. Doubtless, its stance on many issues can transmute into image-making rhetoric but there is a certain purity of intention, not yet fully articulated theatrically, which may enable the group to persist and withstand the fiscal and critical difficulties which always are at the jugular of innovative, anti-establishment theatre groups. In March 1972, in a letter to the Group, sometime member, Margaret Williams, now a critic and academic at the University of NSW, wrote:
‘… I think that what is in many ways the Group’s strongest quality is also its least endearing quality – at least to those outside it – namely, a kind of (dare I say it?) arrogance; a messianic certainty of its anointed role as custodian of the Australian drama … I think that quality is an asset, and it may well be that that is the magic talisman which will keep the APG alive and kicking where so many other groups, equally committed, have failed …’.

Drama is a communal art. It needs writers and actors and technicians and ticket sellers and designers and painters of walls. Without each other, not one of these people would be meaningful. In so far as the APG is an alternative, it is so because its political form is such as to give each person a share in deciding what affects another. It is frightening to each of us at different levels, for different reasons but, for those of us who choose to remain, it is the best way to work; trust is the only way in which the theatre can take those risks necessary to create something new.”

On the other hand, the following parts from the original scanned document appearing on this blog do not appear in the other version just mentioned:

  • The dialogue between The Prosecutor and Actor: see sections 5 and 6.
  •   All the writing contained in the scanned document between the words “… stardom and the buck” and “It is true that …”. This is 6 paragraphs with a total of approximately 670 words.


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“The Golden Holden” by John Romeril.

The APG performed “The Golden Holden” at the Pram Factory theatre in December 1975 and January 1976. Shown here is a 2-page promotional leaflet prepared by the APG. On page 2 of the leaflet is a piece written by John Romeril titled “The Genesis of ‘The Golden Holden'”.
John Romeril

Romeril’s piece touches on the great political turmoil in Australia at the time. On 11 November 1975 the Whitlam Labor Government was dismissed by the Governor-General in controversial/baffling circumstances, and the election on 13 December 1975 was won by the Liberal/National Country Party coalition.
The Golden Holden 1 The Golden Holden 2

For Romeril’s amusing and valuable memoir of the APG – “Last Words on a Nearly Made It Theatre: Memoir of a Survivor” – click HERE.


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Australian Performing Group Actors Agency brochure 1974

Photographs of Bill Garner, Bob Thorneycroft, Joe Bolza, Carol Porter, Claire Dobbin, Evelyn Krape, Fay Mokotow, Jane Clifton, Jan Freidl, Jon Hawkes, Max Gillies, Roz DeWinter, Steve Spears, Tim Robertson and Yvonne Marini.

Photographs and text sourced from the 1974 APG Actors Agency brochure.

From the front cover of the brochure.

Bill Garner
Bob Thorneycroft and Joe Bolza
Carol Porter
Claire Dobbin
Evelyn Krape
Fay Mokotow
Jane Clifton
Jan Freidl
Jon Hawkes

Max Gillies
Roz DeWinter
Steve Spears
Tim Robertson
Yvonne Marini

Text from the APG’s Actors Agency brochure of 1974:

1974 blurb 1
1974 blurb 2
1974 blurb 3
1974 blurb 4
1974 blurb 5
1974 blurb 6




Introducing the Australian Performing Group of the 70s


The then unnamed Australian Performing Group (APG) from Melbourne started out in 1967 as a group of writers and actors working together at La Mama theatre in Carlton. In 1970 the APG was officially formed and then set up a theatre in a former pram factory in Drummond Street, Carlton.  Here, and in other venues throughout Melbourne and other parts of Australia, the ensemble presented alternative, experimental, avant-garde and radical plays, stage shows, street theatre and circus acts, using comedy, drama, music and dance to entertain and to turn the spotlight on its concerns about social, political and feminist issues. The ensemble also produced a record album (“The Great Stumble Forward: Matchbox and the APG at the Pram”) and a feature length movie (“Dimboola”).   Many of the hundred-plus works performed by the APG between 1970 and 1979 received critical and popular acclaim. APG performers and writers had a major impact on the nature and content of live theatre in Australia. Their government-subsidized organisation provided acting, designing, and playwriting opportunities to many artists who might not otherwise have had the chance to create.

But by 1981 the group had disintegrated. The only surviving part is “Circus Oz”, an APG off-shoot formed in 1978 when the APG’s Soapbox Circus and The Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band joined with the New Ensemble Circus of Adelaide.  It continues to perform in Australia and internationally to this day (July 2013). 

Actors, performers, writers, directors and artists

Listed below are writers, actors, directors, artists and others who were part of the APG and/or its Soapbox Circus during its heyday, and whose names may be well known to “mature-age” lovers of Australian alternative theatre, circus, film and television. As others have said, “some (of these people) had a brief connection with the APG; others were there for a long time and were instrumental in its success”.

Blundall, Graeme
Bolza, Joe
Broadway, Sue
Buzo, Alex
Chapman, Eileen
Chong, Rose
Clifton, Jane
Coldwell, Tim
Conway, Mick
Corrigan, Peter
Costelloe, Rose
Cummins, Peter
Daly, Bob
Davies, Lindy
de Winter, Roz
Dickins, Barry
Dobbin, Claire
Dreyfus, George
Duigan, John
Dwyer, Kerry
Finlay, Peter
Frank, Laurel
Friedel, Jan
Friedel, Martin
Garner, Bill
Gedye, Kelvin
Giles, Neil
Gillies, Max
Green, Peter
Hampton, Paul
Hannan, Bill
Hannan, Lorna
Harrison, Ursula
Hawkes, Jon
Hawkes, Ponch
Hibberd, Jack
Ingelton, Sue
Isaac, Graeme
Kemp, Jenny
Kendall, David
Koenig, John
Krape, Evelyn
Last, Wilfred
Laurie, Robin
Maddison, Ruth
Marini, Yvonne
Meldrum, Robert
Meltzer, Larry
Mokotow, Fay
Motherwell, Phil
Mullett, Jane
Murphet, Richard
Oakley, Barry
Pickhaver, Greig
Potter, Susy
Porter, Carol
Price, Michael
Richards, Alison
Robertson, Alan
Robertson, Tim
Romeril, John
Shuv’us, James
Sky, Hellen
Smith, Lindzee
Spears, Steve
Spence, Bruce
Taylor, Tony
Thorneycroft, Bob
Waddell, Gary
Weiner, Jack
Weiss, Bob
Williamson, David
(As I think of/become aware of others I will add them to the list.)


Like most of its productions, management at the APG was also radically different. Instead of a conventional, hierarchical structure, the APG was run as a self-managed collective.  Nevertheless, the roles played by John Timlin (publicity and administration) and Jon Hawkes (acting and administration) at times approximated that of manager or overseer.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, management became somewhat chaotic as the APG grew and conflicts between sub-groups arose. Several influential members departed, some because they became tired of attending the many committee and group meetings held.


It has been estimated that the APG performed/staged up to 150 theatrical productions. Of those the following are probably the best known from the group’s heyday (alphabetically):

A Stretch of the Imagination
A Toast to Melba
At the Feet of Daniel Mannix
Back to Bourke Street
Betty Can Jump
Beware of Imitations
Chicago Chicago
Chris Langham’s One Man Show
Diary of a Madman
Domestic Contradictions – Socialism in One Room
Don’s Party
Dreamers of the Absolute
How Grey Was My Nurse
It’s a Mad World My Masters
Marvellous Melbourne
Mary Shelley and the Monsters
Mickey’s Moomba
My Foot, My Tutor
On Yer Marx
Pecking Orders
Peggy Sue
Phar Lap – It’s Cingalese for Lightning, Y’know
Radio Active Horror Show
Smak’in The Daks
Soabox Circus
The Bob and Joe Show
The Dudders
The Floating World
The Golden Holden
The Hills Family Show
The Overcoat
The Ship’s Whistle
White With Wire Wheels
Yesterday’s News
Yours for the Masking

History and Opinions in Books, Papers and Online

Thousands of words have been written about the Australian Performing Group and the Pram Factory Theatre.   The best that I have read are:

  • “Make it Australian: The Australian Performing Group, the Pram Factory and New Wave Theatre”, by , 2008, Currency Press. To see click HERE. 

  • The Pram Factory website, developed by Suzanne Ingleton and with the support of
    The Myer Foundation:

  •  “When The Way Out Was In: Avant-Garde Theatre in Australia, 1965-1985”, by Adrian John Guthrie, University of Wollongong. A thesis. 1996. See pages 57 onwards. A copy of the thesis, in PDF format, can be downloaded from HERE.

  • “The Pram Factory: The Australian Performing Group Recollected”, by Tim Robertson, 1997, Melbourne University Press.  Currently (April 2017) the book appears to be unavailable from sellers of new books, but may be available on Ebay or its like.