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The Shifting Heart

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Shifting Heart
Written byRichard Beynon
Date premieredOctober 1957 (1957-10)
Place premieredElizabethan Theatre, Sydney
Original languageEnglish
SettingChristmas Eve 1956, Collingwood, Melbourne

The Shifting Heart is a play written in 1957[1] in Australia by Richard Beynon, it is an insight to the psychology of racism and its victims. In the background of 1950s Collingwood, Melbourne.


  • Momma Bianchi
  • Poppa Bianchi
  • Gino Bianchi
  • Maria Bianchi (Fowler)
  • Clarry Fowler
  • Leila Pratt
  • Donny Pratt
  • Detective-Sergeant Lukie


The Shifting Heart is set in 1956, Collingwood, Melbourne on Christmas Eve. At the time, Collingwood was a poor suburb populated by lower class Australian families and Italian immigrants.

The play published in 1960 by Angus & Robertson begins with two pages of stage direction. It describes the home of Italians Mr. & Mrs. Vicenzo Bianchi, the stage is their backyard. On stage left there is a large garbage can that is overfilled, the overflow is in a small household bucket. On each side of the stage is the wall of the neighbours.

On stage left is the wall between the Pratt family, Leila and Donny. The wall is a fence that relaxes in the wind and shows an air of dilapidation. The boards are able to be pushed apart enough to let the Pratts enter the Bianchis' backyard.

On stage right there is a wall described as a formidable barrier, complete with a length of barbed wire across the top. It is low enough for the woman living there to toss garbage over. In the first pages of dialog and notes in the stage direction, it is clear that there is a "war" going on between the family living stage right against the Bianchis because they are Italian. The Pratt family is on the side of the Bianchi family.


The Shifting Heart premiered at the Elizabethan Theatre in Sydney in October 1957, presented by the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust. It toured nationally for a year, including seasons at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne and Her Majesty's Theatre in Brisbane.[2]

The play debuted in England in 1959 where it played a West End season at the Duke of York's Theatre.[3][4]

The ABC made a radio version of the play in 1962. It was adapted for Australian television on the ABC in 1968.[5]

Notable revivals include those of Melbourne's Union Theatre Repertory Company in 1962, Sydney's Marian Street Theatre in 1981, Sydney's Phillip Street Theatre in 1984, and the State Theatre Company of South Australia in 1996.

1962 TV adaptation

The play was filmed by British TV in 1962.[6][7]

It screened for the General Motors Hour in Australia on 1 September 1962.[8]


1968 TV adaptation

The play was filmed for TV in 1968[9] and aired on 21 August 1968 (Melbourne)[10] as part of Wednesday Theatre. It starred Anne Charleston and Tom Oliver, who later worked together on the TV series Neighbours.

It also starred Madge Ryan who had appeared in the premiere season of the play, only then she played Leila the neighbour and now she played Momma.[11]



The Age said "the entirety works despite some stray accents."[12]


  1. ^ Milne, Geoffrey (2004). Theatre Australia (Un)limited. Rodopi.
  2. ^ "AusStage – The Shifting Heart". Retrieved 15 June 2016.
  3. ^ "Enthusiastic U.K. Reception For Australian Play". The Canberra Times. 12 August 1959. p. 19. Retrieved 24 May 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  4. ^ ""Shifting Heart" Well Received". The Canberra Times. Vol. 34, no. 9, 396. 16 September 1959. p. 3. Retrieved 4 April 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ "Richard Beynon's prize-winning play 'The Shifting Heart' will be telecast on ABC-3 at 8 o'clock tonight. Virginia Gerrett interviewed the author in London recently. The 'Z-Cars' controller". The Canberra Times. 7 August 1968. p. 12. Retrieved 24 May 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ "CTVA UK - "ITV Play of the Week" (ITV) Season 8 (1962-63)".
  7. ^ 1962 TV adaptation at AustLit
  8. ^ "Television for 1962" (PDF). GMH People. May 1962. p. 7.
  9. ^ "TV Guide", Sydney Morning Herald, p. 31, 5 August 1968
  10. ^ "Madge Ryan as Momma". The Age. 15 August 1968. p. 23.
  11. ^ "Madge Ryan in TV' Shifting Heart". The Age. 27 June 1968. p. 25.
  12. ^ "This Must Give ABC New Heart". The Age. 21 August 1968. p. 6.

External links

This page was last edited on 15 May 2022, at 01:34
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