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Australian dramatist and writer Jack Hibberd was born on 12 April, 1940 in the Victorian town of Warracknabeal, near Bendigo. His professional training was initially as a Doctor, however he left medicine in 1967 to concentrate on his endeavours as a playwright. In 1968 a program of his short plays was performed at the University of Melbourne. Hibberd became a founding member of the La Mama Company (later the Australian Performing Group – APG). In 1973 Hibberd was granted a writers fellowship from the Australia Council's Literature Board which enabled him to continue writing full-time.

Although he admits to being inspired by a number of artists including Brecht, Beckett and Pinter, Hibberd's writing is uniquely his own. It is also uniquely Australian. He is a pioneer in his exploration of the “ocker” mentality and many of his writings feature themes like Australian masculinity, Australian National Identity and the role of women in Australian social culture, and make good use of the Australian vernacular. Hibberd openly rejects naturalism as a satisfactory theatrical medium and the influence of Brecht can be readily seen in many of his plays, particularly those that require a degree of audience participation such as Dimboola (1969) and Liquid Amber (1982).

In line with his frequent departure from realism Hibberd makes use of music and song in a number of his plays including Peggy Sue (1974) which engages the contemporary Rock-N-Roll of the 1950's and 60's, and A Toast to Melba which called on a more classical style of music. The year 1981 saw the production of the enormously successful Smash Hit, a comical satire on musicals.

Although not prone to delve into the psychology of characters or their circumstance, Hibberd has none the less produced a large number of plays for the solo actor, his most famous being A Stretch Of The Imagination (1972), while others include Memoirs of a Carlton Bohemian (1977), A Man Of Many Parts (1980) and Death Warmed Up (1984).

In 1986, Hibberd abandoned the theatre and returned to medicine. He continued to write however and produced a number of  novels including Memoirs Of An Old Bastard (1989), The Life Of Riley (1991) and Perdita (1992). Other non-theatrical writing endeavours include translations of poetry including Baudelaire's Le vin des amants (1977), and general works such as The Barracker's Bible: a dictionary of sporting slang, a collaboration with Garrie Hutchinson published in 1983.

After an absence of seven years, Jack Hibberd returned once more to the Australian theatre scene in 1993. He has produced a number of works in both theatre and verse and some of his recent works include Legacy (1997), The Genius of Human Imperfection (1998) and  The Death of Ivan Ilych (2002). In recent years Hibberd has also gained respect as a noted arts journalist and have been a contributor to a number of leading publications including The Australian, Meanjin and The Bulletin. Hibberd won the National Book Critics' Circle (USA) Award for the Finest Work of Fiction in 1976. The plays of Jack Hibberd continue to performed by amateur and professional theatre companies around Australia.



Simon and Delyse Ryan ACU National