141: Nowhere

9 Aug

Nowhere was Dorothy Hewett’s last play, written a year before she died and two years after she’d sworn she’d written her last. It’s a warm, generous play, easy to read and like with a simpler structure than many of her earlier works.

Dorothy Hewett

Alec Bolton's 'Portrait of Dorothy Hewett, Darlinghurst' 1985

Whereas in The Chapel Perilous she had a heroine (Sally Banner) whose life resembled hers, in Nowhere she has an old codger, a tramp named Josh, who is her male counterpart.

JOSH: Look at me, I was a Commo once, twenty-three years, ’til the Russians marched into Czechoslovakia and I resigned. But I’ll always be a Marxist. There won’t be no deathbed conversion for me.

Josh lives in a humpy on the old showground in Dry Torrent. For company he has Snow, a homeless Vietnam veteran haunted by nightmares who sleeps in his old, broken-down Holden. The two have a companionable and quiet life until the arrival of a young Aboriginal woman, Vonnie.

SNOW: Shit.
JOSH: What’s wrong?
SNOW: Trouble. There’s this bird comin’ up the track.
JOSH: A Sheila! What’s she look like?
SNOW: Young.
[…]
JOSH: She’s a Koori. You can always tell ’em by the eyes.

Vonnie is also homeless. She’s on the run from her pimp/dealer who wanted to keep her on the smack and on the game, while she wanted to get herself clean. She turns out to be exactly what Josh and Snow needed, bringing laughter, song and music into their lives as if she was the Maria to their Von Trapps.

That’s where Nowhere falls down a little: it’s a bit predictable in its feel good scenario and plot. Snow and Vonnie fall in love, Vonnie brings joy into Josh’s life and helps him reconcile with his past and Dry Torrent might finally lose the ‘Dry’ that’s been part of its name since the Snowy River Hydro-Electric Scheme.

JOSH: If we’d had the sense we was supposed to be born with and said no, ‘stead of cheerin’ our silly heads off, the Great Snowy’d still be racin’ down through them mountains irrigatin’ all the little farms instead of bein’ just the muddy trickle it is today.

If you’re after a feel-good drama with a strong social message, you won’t go far wrong with Nowhere. It’s not Hewett’s strongest work, but it’s great to see a play with some different characters to those you’d normally find in an outback drama.

Publisher: Currency Press

Cast: 3M, 2F

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