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My 1968

by Dave Riley

Not everyone has a 1968 of course. But I do.

Age has its advantages.

In the main it was my second university year and I spent it skipping studies and merging with , what we called , the "real world".

For me that world was a touch odd. This time forty years ago I was producing and directing a review at one of Melbourne's long stay mental hospitals. Aside from myself and a social worker everyone else in the production were -- what was euphemistically referred to as -- "mental patients."

I wanted to call it, A cup of tea, a Largactil and a good lie down but instead proprietary forced the name Highly Recommended upon us. (You had to be "recommended" by a GP before you could be sent to a psychiatric hospital.)

After that production -- musically arranged and written by my 'mental patient ' colleagues -- we thought we'd advance our skills and tackle light opera -- Gilbert & Sullivan's Trail by Jury.


Since I was working on other campus based theatre productions at the time, I pulled in a few of these thespian types to help out and Voila! our effort was transformed into That's a dirty shame; someone's got to blame.

A one night only performance at the Mont Park Mental Hospital hall.

You today know it as the film and play Cosi because one of these campus associates I ringed in was the later writer/playwright Louis Nowra. He used the episode to help plot out his well known play. It has become a high school study standard.

What's not known except by a very few, is that in rewriting of G&S we used a lot of Peter Weiss' The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade.

Phew!

I happened to be obsessed with the play at the time. Ironic, don't you think?

So that's my beginner 1968 moment: the Mart/Sade. The way I read Weiss' play was as a debate between individual self interest and revolution.

So with one thing and another....forty years on I've tended to live out the answer if not the plot.

I also spent a few years working the psych hospitals up and down the east coast of Australia and doing a bit of the other stuff too.

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