Vale Alan Seymour
Loved and loving partner of nearly 55 years to Ron Baddeley (deceased). A most loved uncle, brother, cousin, generous friend, colleague and creative mind.
Alan, who was one of Australia’s best loved playwrights in the Twentieth Century, has died in Lulworth House, an aged care facility in Elizabeth Bay, Sydney. He was best known for his stage play The One Day of the Year which depicted a conflict between an Anzac veteran and his sonwho writes an inflammatory and pejorative article about Anzac Day in his university newspaper. The play created a considerable stir at the time; death threats were made to the author.
After being rejected by the Adelaide Festival of Arts Board, the play was given its premiere by the Adelaide Theatre Group in July 1960. Subsequently it was picked up by the Australian Elizabethan Trust and toured the country. I can vividly recall the impact it had when I saw it at the Sydney’s Palace Theatre in 1960 when Alf Cook, wonderfully played by Ron Haddrick, arrives home after the Anzac march repellently drunk. It was also the first time I had seen a character on the stage who was Australian. The impact was significant.
Alan Seymour was born in Perth, the son of Herbert and Mary Seymour whom Alan described as “working class Cockneys”. When his father, a wharfie, died in a dock accident, Alan’s mother remarried and Alan went to live with his sister in Fremantle.
On leaving school, he became a working writer. Journalism and radio kept him busy in both Perth and Sydney until the success of The One Day of the Year gave him the impetus to try his luck abroad. He left for London in 1961 with his partner Ron Baddeley, whom he had met in Perth in 1949. It was a deep and loving relationship which lasted over 54 years until Ron’s death in 2003.
In London Alan became a successful television writer, producer and editor with the BBC. He was the theatre critic of London Magazine (1963-65) and wrote novels, plays and journalism in Turkey (1966-71) where he accompanied Ron Baddeley who taught English in Izmir. Alan was always welcoming to Australian writers who landed in London and I well remember going with him to a play reading of an unproduced Australian play at the Royal Court one Sunday in 1972 at which “all London” was present. The English, it seemed, cared about the theatre.
On his return to Australia in 1995, we were neighbours in Darlinghurst and used to catch up whenever we bumped into each other. He was warm and hospitable and always engaged. As Alzheimers began to bite, his hospitality sometimes had comic-grotesque consequences. I well recall a small dinner party in his apartment where the actors Jacki Weaver and Jennifer Hagan noticed the kitchen was on fire as Alan was cheerily shucking some oysters for dessert!
Regretting the domination of American culture on our television, Alan cared deeply for an Australian culture which could reveal our specific and essential character and temperament. His contribution still stands. Alan was a strong supporter of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain, and of the Australian Writers' Guild when he moved back to Australia.
He was a dear man who wrote well.
Relatives and friends of Alan are invited to his funeral, to take place in the chapel of Walter Carter, 302 Oxford Street (opposite Denison Street), Bondi Junction on Thursday 26th March commencing at 2:30 pm.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the Australian Writers Guild Donations Fund would be appreciated.