Douglas Stewart’s Ned Kelly


The Author

Douglas Stewart (1913 – 1985) was a major twentieth century Australian poet, as well as short story writer, essayist and literary editor. He published thirteen collections of poetry, five verse plays, including the well-known Ned Kelly (first performed in 1942), many short stories and critical essays, and biographies of Norman Lindsay and Kenneth Slessor. He also edited several poetry anthologies. Stewart’s greatest contribution to Australian literature came from his twenty years as literary editor of The Bulletin, his ten years as a publishing editor with Angus & Robertson, and his lifetime support of Australian writers. Geoffrey Serle, literary critic, has described Stewart as ‘the greatest all-rounder of modern Australian literature.’

The Play

Theatre-Stewart-11Act one, scene one from the script of Douglas Stewart’s ‘Ned Kelly’.

Douglas Stewart’s play Ned Kelly was performed in 1956 at the Elizabethan Theatre Company following the highly successful Summer of the Seventeenth Doll. It was supposed to be performed in Melbourne at the time of the 1956 Olympic Games. However, despite impressive sets designs by artist Desmonde Downing (1920-1975), excellent reviews, and lead actor Leo McKern playing Ned Kelly, the production closed down in Sydney after only two weeks. The original pencil, and pen and ink sketches (pictured below) were supplied by Norman Lindsay to accompany the Ned Kelly manuscript.