A dramatist and director, Michael Gow, was born in Sydney and began his theatre work with the Australian Theatre for Young People in 1970. As a student he acted and directed at Sydney University with the Dramatic Society from 1973-76. He worked as an actor with Nimrod, Thalia and Sydney theatre companies. He has directed shows for most major Australian companies including Sydney Theatre Company and Queensland Theatre Company. Gow is generally regarded as one of the leading playwrights to emerge in the 1980s. His plays have achieved success with both audiences and critics. Gow's play Away (1986) is one of the most frequently revived Australian plays. The play begins like a familiar satire of suburban banality. Three families at a school play look forward to the school holidays. Underlying this is a nostalgia for the apparent innocence of the 1960s. In the second act the edges of the satire start to show. The couples locked into ritual and pretence at home are suddenly freed from restraint by being 'away'. Through the experience they evolve new understandings. The transformations are partly the result of relocation, the storm that exposes everyone to the elements and the confrontation with the reality that one of the children is dying of Leukemia.
In general Gow's dramatic writings analyse the experiences of the lower middle class family since the second world war. His explorations range from revealing their equivocal resilience in plays such as Away and On Top of the World (1986) to their fracturing and dispersal in plays such as The Kid (1983) and Furious (1991). Other pervasive themes in Gow's work explore the change wrought by suffering through physical illness, spiritual damage and even the death of young people. In Gow's work, the causes are clearly social, including alienation and social deprivation in plays such as The Kid or alternately in other plays such as On Top, affluence and boredom in the suburbs. Theatre aimed at and for young people was Gow's beginning and it continues as a major interest in his writing. He writes for the young and about their problems. This is evident in plays such as All Stops Out (1989).
Most of Gow's plays deal with conflict between generations. Often particularly between parents who experienced the hardship of the Depression and the second world war and their children born to post war affluence and choice. Sexuality is a major theme in Gow's work, the difficulties facing individuals who are not heterosexual. His recent work includes an adaptation of Henry Handel Richardson's The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney produced by the Queensland Theatre Company and the Melbourne Theatre Company in 2002 for the Brisbane Festival and the Melbourne International Festival. He has won a variety of awards including the Green Room Award in 1986, the NSW Premier's Literary Award 1986, the Sydney Theatre Critic's Circle Award 1986, Australian Writer's Guild Awgie 1987 for Away. and the Sydney Theatre Critic's Circle Award for Furious. Gow is currently the artistic director of the Queensland Theatre Company.