Archive for February, 2013

THE SLAUGHTER OF ST THERESA’S DAY by Peter Kenna

 We had a lot of fun doing a read through of this play at bookgroup. Reading it aloud to each other, with everyone taking a character, was such a different experience from reading it alone as a book. It was quite a revelation. The characters were more alive, they were funnier, the whole thing was a much more vibrant experience.

The book is a short play based on the real life character of tilly devine (see backstory and pics), a famous female underworld figure from the 30s to the 60s in sydney. Apparently¬†Peter Kenna¬†wrote, the “Slaughter of St Theresa’s day” in the front room of pete’s house. so obviously bookgroup was held there, which added to the appeal.

With the title and the subject matter i was expecting the usual collection of stuff about snappy, suits, sly grog and brothels, as portrayed in the recent TV series that dramatised her life. Surprisingly the story is actually more a study of a dysfunctional family. It takes place over one 24 hour period when the tilly character’s daughter arrives home from boarding school for her mum’s annual st theresa’s day party. unfortunately a young ‘jack the lad’ type character, recently out of jail and completely unreformed, also arrives. things go downhill from there.

However, the violence isn’t portrayed and its not at all clear that the deaths and so on are linked to gangland turf wars, or dodgy deals gone wrong. The play turns out not to be about any of that. It is much more about what it was like to live in a community of very impulsive, honour obsessed, irish descended catholics in mid 20th century sydney.

It felt like a window into a personality type, and a culture, that we middle class 21st century sydney bookgrouper’s dont see much any more, but haven’t quite forgotten. Perhaps it is also a window into the mindset that is still created today in males from some cultures, where honour and impulsiveness are still valued more highly than control and moderation and tolerance.

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February 16, 2013 at 6:50 am Leave a comment


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