Georne Landen Dann's career as a playwright started in 1931 when "In Beauty it is Finished"—his play of miscegenation, made Australians sit up and stare. Never before had such a beguilingly innocent looking young Australian playwright shocked the public's morals like this. Here was an apparently shy, clean-living youth—"a keen-eyed, clean-limbed and good—looking young Australian, such as grace our beaches, tennis courts and playing fields"1—daring to uncover a way of life and an aspect of society which the public could, as yet, only regard as an insult to their fair country, George Dann was too far ahead of his time of course. It was not until Fountains Beyond, his next play dealing with aboriginals was produced eleven years later that the public realised how right he had been in revealing a social issue that they had for too long been prudishly ignoring.
In many ways, George Dann continued to be ahead of his time, not only with his specifically social plays, but with other plays as well. In 1939, long before Caroline Chisholm had pained the reputation of a national heroine that she has today, Dann recognized her as one and wrote the first dramatic portrayal of her as such.
In techniques too, Dann has not always waited for someone else to set the example. In the Rhaphsody of "Oh! The Brave Music!" he experimented with a deliberate confusion of art and reality which involves the audience as an active participator in the play. His radio play, "The Orange Grove", innovatively presents reality from the point of view of an eccentric old lady, by making liberal use of verse, sound effects and letting the natural elements have speaking parts.
Most of the plays which George Dann has written have won or gained places in competitions. His achievements range from the glory of first prize for "No Incense Rising" in the nation-wide Dramatists’ Club of Australia competition which was judged in London (1938), to first place in the more modest Queensland Eisteddfod for "The Days of Roses" (1934), Most of his plays have been produced many times in Australia, Fountains Beyond made it to London, and also to Wales where it won an eisteddfod (1950), and "The Orange Grove" has been broadcast in Canada, Forty-five years after "In Beauty it is Finished" won first prize in the Brisbane Repertory Society competition, Dann is still writing plays, and still gaining places in drama competitions. In 1975, "Rainbows Die At Sunset" came second in a competition in Newcastle in which Romeril's The Floating World, and Jennifer Compton's "No Man's Land" shared first prize.2
This thesis attempts to examine the important plays which Goorge Dann has written over that forty-five year period. The first chapter deals with a group of plays in which a theme obviously close to Dann's heart is worked out. The theme of trying to escape from an island is dealt with so poignantly by Georqe Dann that it must have sprung from a real struggle he was having within himself. It may echo his efforts to break away from the monotony of everyday life as a draftsman in the Brisbane City Council to his present satisfying and idyllic life as a full-time writer, nature-lover, and traveller.
The second chapter follows another theme—that of the half-caste's dilemma—through a different group of plays. This group is more concerned, with social issues than with personal issues. The third chapter deals with a diverse collection of plays in which Dann's ability to tackle a variety of subjects is illustrated.