Robin Lovejoy OBE 1923-1985
Robin Casper Lovejoy was born at Lambasa, Fiji, on 17 December 1923, and came to Australia with his parents in his early teens.
Lovejoy joined May Hollinworth’s amateur Metropolitan Theatre, first as an actor, then as a designer and director.
In Melbourne Lovejoy directed and designed for Frank Thring’s Arrow Theatre and for Gertrude Johnson’s National Theatre Opera Company.
‘The actors here today owe Robin a debt,’ said Ruth Cracknell in her eulogy for Robin Lovejoy.
‘His roots were in Australia. He didn’t remain in England. He returned. As its artistic director, he was the guiding force in the Trust Players in the late 1950s and 1960s, that forerunner to all the major subsidised drama companies in the country. His belief in the ability of Australians to perform in their own theatres and to provide work of a high order was second to none. Every production he was connected with was fired with a belief in this country’s artistic viability; the result of this belief was to be seen in theatres across the land.’
An interviewer once asked Robin Lovejoy what he felt most held him back. ‘Time. For me, personally, time. To be involved and interested in just the idea of the Australian theatre is a full life. Perhaps it’s self-indulgent of me, but I feel constantly torn apart because I don’t have the time.’ 1
This seems strange and sad, because Lovejoy packed virtually all his 61 years with creativity, commitment and energetic activity probably unparalleled in Australian theatre.
Robin Casper Lovejoy was born at Lambasa, Fiji, on 17 December 1923, and came to Australia with his parents in his early teens. After four years’ army service he set out to find a niche in the Sydney arts scene. There was little offering in professional theatre, particularly for directors and designers, so Lovejoy joined May Hollinworth’s amateur Metropolitan Theatre, first as an actor, then as a designer and director. In 1950 he was chosen to design the costumes and masks for the National Theatre Ballet Company’s groundbreaking production of Corroboree. That same year illness forced Hollinworth’s withdrawal from the Metropolitan, but Lovejoy directed many productions there until the company’s demise in 1952.
In Melbourne Lovejoy directed and designed for Frank Thring’s Arrow Theatre and for Gertrude Johnson’s National Theatre Opera Company. Back in Sydney he directed Carmen and an Australian double bill – John Antill’s Endymion and The Devil Take Her by Arthur Benjamin – for Johnson’s rival, Clarice Lorenz’s National Opera of Australia. He also worked with the revitalised Mercury Theatre. From 1953 to 1955 a UNESCO–International Theatre Institute Fellowship took him to Britain and Europe to study design and direction.
Watch this space
John Clark: ‘Robin Lovejoy’, in Companion to Theatre in Australia, Currency Press, 1995
Ruth Cracknell: A Biased Memoir, Penguin Books, 1997
Frank Van Straten: ‘Robin Lovejoy – master builder’, in Stages, September-October 1993