Robin Lovejoy OBE 1923-1985
For the Trust’s Drama Company he designed and directed a stylish production of The Rivals, which won him the prestigious Sydney Drama Critics’ Award.
In 1958 Lovejoy founded the Trust Players.
Later in 1961, Lovejoy accepted a two-year Harkness Fellowship. He travelled to the United States via Britain, where he directed a new production of La Bohème for Sadler’s Wells.
Lovejoy’s return home coincided with the inaugural production of the Australian Elizabethan
Theatre Trust, Medea, with the Australian actress Judith Anderson in the role that had made her a legend. Lovejoy was engaged as stage manager and assistant to the General Manager, Hugh Hunt. For the Trust’s Drama Company he designed and directed a stylish production of The Rivals, which won him the prestigious Sydney Drama Critics’ Award; and for the Trust’s Opera Company – eventually it became Opera Australia – he directed La Bohème, Peter Grimes – which he also designed – and Rigoletto.
In 1958 Lovejoy founded the Trust Players. As artistic director, he saw it as the embryo of a truly national touring company, presenting a mixture of classics and contemporary plays, including new Australian works. The first season included The Bastard Country (later decorously retitled Fire on the Wind) by Anthony Coburn and The Slaughter of St Teresa’s Day by Peter Kenna. For three years Lovejoy developed the Trust Players, directing all but two of its 14 productions. Harry Kippax, the Sydney Morning Herald’s critic, said they ‘had never been bettered in Sydney’. The Trust Players’ later work was presented in the Palace Theatre in Pitt Street. It was there, in 1961, that Lovejoy gave Alan Seymour’s The One Day of the Year its professional premiere. The Anzac-themed play had been rejected by a nervous Adelaide Festival board, and the Sydney first night was marred by a bomb scare that cleared the theatre. It was the Trust Players’ final production.
Later in 1961, Lovejoy accepted a two-year Harkness Fellowship. He travelled to the United States via Britain, where he directed a new production of La Bohème for Sadler’s Wells. In the United States he visited many theatre centres, lecturing, designing and directing.
On his return to Australia Lovejoy administered the Elizabethan Trust’s Lunchtime Theatre series. Its 50-minute presentations – many of them specially commissioned plays –reached a new audience of office workers and city shoppers. But Lovejoy found that the Trust’s philosophy had changed. The dream of a national touring drama company had given way to a policy of encouraging regional companies and a more commercial, main-stream entrepreneurial approach. As well, the Trust had become a hotbed of political in-fighting and bitter personality clashes. Lovejoy retreated, his dream shattered. Nevertheless he directed the Trust’s Opera Company in the Australian premiere of Walton’s Troilus and Cressida at the 1964 Adelaide Festival. The composer gave Lovejoy’s work his personal approval.
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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