The One Day of the Year by Alan Seymour: 366 Days of Writing

Alan Seymour’s The One Day of the Year has become a classic of the Australian stage since its first publication in 1958, a time when its subject matter generated some controversy — and indeed, it still does.

The day of which Seymour’s title speaks is ANZAC Day, that conglomeration of legend, mythology and national celebration — now as closely associated with drunkenness and the odd game of two-up as with its significance as a day of remembrance. In a 2003 interview with Richard Jinman, published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Seymour admitted to lingering anxiety about the play and its reception even now – particularly in the contemporary context of new-millennium military actions.

The play does not pull its punches, following the story of a young university student, Hughie Cook, who helps his girlfriend Jan write an newspaper article which is critical of the ANZAC Day memorial and celebrations. Hughie’s father is an ex-servicemen, and conflict engendered between Alf and his son is at the emotional heart of the play’s action.

The play gradually uncovers the strands of prejudice and ignorance that can underpin strongly – often blindly — held beliefs, and explores the deterioration of the national commemoration into a day now known for its brawls and drinking sprees. Seymour weaves elements of family dram and intergenerational conflict with the broader problems of an Australian sense of identity that is premised on arguably shaky foundations.

Review by Sophia Barnes.

Taking our cue from the National Year of Reading 2012, we’re having our very own National Year of Writing 2012, aka 366 Days of Writing.

Send your reviews in to us! We want to hear about great Australian books, be they new or old, fiction, poetry, plays, short stories, memoir – we want the lot! This year is all about promoting Australian books and Australian readers. Reviews should be between 200 and 400 words.

Send reviews to sbarnes(write at)nswwc.org.au

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