Alex Buzo, Australian playwright, dies

17 Aug

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Not as well known as David Williamson, Alex Buzo was nonetheless an important part of the renaissance of Australian drama in the 1970s. He died yesterday at the age of 62.

The first of his plays that I saw was Coralie Lansdowne Says No at the old Belvoir Street Theatre in the early seventies; no, come to think of it, I think it was at the Belvoir’s precursor, the Nimrod in Kings Cross. A good funny play it is too. Subsequently I met Buzo while I was acting in the Balmain Theatre Group’s production of his The Roy Murphy Show in which I played Clarrie Maloney, a Rugby League commentator loosely based on the legendary Frank Hyde. Yes, it was not type-casting, and I had to spray my hair grey in those days. 😉 Apparently I did it rather well, because when I met Buzo again in the early eighties he addressed me as “Clarrie”!

I also took an entire Wollongong Year 12 class to the entire production process from casting to performance of Coralie Lansdowne Says No at Balmain in 1979, in which I would also have been acting had I not returned in the meantime to Wollongong. We drove up to Sydney once every two or three weeks during the rehearsal process and saw the production through all its stages; we also went to the first night and the party afterwards where the class met Buzo, who was particularly impressed by “Carcase”, the class reprobate, who engaged him in intelligent conversation on the nature of dramatic language. Good memories.

And on the mortality of my generation, I discovered at The Mine yesterday that Patricia O’Brien, a member of the English Department, died of cancer during the last holidays.

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9 responses to “Alex Buzo, Australian playwright, dies

  1. Jim Belshaw

    August 17, 2006 at 8:31 pm

    I enjoyed this post. I posted a personal comment on Alex on my New England Australia blog –

  2. Owner

    August 17, 2006 at 10:46 pm

    Do read Jim’s account of Alex Buzo, whom he knew better than I did. It is very interesting. I hadn’t known before that Alex’s father was “an Albanian. He used to tell me now he had been in the Boy Scouts with Enver Hoxha who later become communist dictator. Apparently Hoxha was a nasty piece of work even then.”

  3. Jim Belshaw

    August 18, 2006 at 6:17 am

    Thanks, Neil. I am glad you enjoyed the post. On Hoxha, Alex’s dad’s exact words as I recall them were that Hoxha was the type of boy who used to pull the wings off flies!

    Re your comment on New England, Australia, yes I did know John Traas. If I remember correctly, and it’s a long time ago, he had the misfortune to try to teach me French. The school was trying to encourage languages and gave a 25 per cent mark bonus in exams. I think my final French mark was 13 per cent including the bonus!.

  4. Owner

    August 18, 2006 at 8:10 am

    Thanks, Jim. John Traas was one of the most interesting people I ever met, and a great humanist.

  5. Jim Belshaw

    August 18, 2006 at 12:35 pm

    Now that’s interesting Neil.

    Based on what you said, I assume that it is the same John, one of the problems for teachers, if problem is the right word, is that their students see them in one dimension. I see John in the mid school classroom in front of me, as a teacher, not a person.

    Yet our teachers are, at least as I see them, the custodians of our civilisation. Would Alex have written in the way he did without Brian Mattingley? Perhaps not.

    Brian – Joe – taught English and Latin. His cane, stored behind his study door, was called Horace. I never experienced Horace, and indeed I think that it was more threat than reality. But like Alex, and Alex wrote an obit on Brian, I found his English teaching of on-going influence.

  6. Jim Belshaw

    August 19, 2006 at 10:04 pm

    Neil, in case you did not see it, Bob Ellis wrote an obit on Alex – see

  7. Jeremy Nash

    August 23, 2006 at 10:47 am

    I’m inviting my year nine drama class at the Armidale School to research Alex’ life and works, with a view of putting on a dramatic sketch about him for the rest of the school. I’ll try and keep you posted, and would enjoy other tips and anecdotes.

  8. Jim Belshaw

    August 24, 2006 at 10:45 am

    That’s an interesting challenge, Jeremy. At his funeral, both Merelyn and Sandy Gore spoke about the Buzo women, talking both about his female friends and his capacity to write strong female parts, not something you might expect to acquire at a boys school.

    On my New England, Australia blog I have just put up a story in part about another TAS old boy who became a writer, Geoff Page. See

    In a post on a different blog, Personal Reflections – – I talk a little about the funeral and also getting together afterwards.

    All this is making me wonder about TAS at the time. It could be a pretty rough school sometimes, something I will write about one day. But for a small school – there were only about 350 pupils while I was there – apparently remote from the metro, it seems to have had a remarkably good creative streak directly linked to key teachers.

  9. Ruud Smelt

    December 21, 2006 at 10:41 pm

    Who can help me on data, facts and/or history about John Traas, mentioned in the article. I am working on a genealogy for the family Traas, from origins from the Netherlands. Every thing will be welcome.

    Ruud Smelt
    The Netherlands

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