No Incense Rising

by George Landen Dann

A life of one’s own at the expense of one’s family? Or a life of familial obligation? This is the choice faced by Ada Bergmann


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George Landen Dann‘s No Incense Rising is cathartic and confessional. It challenges us on what we would really give up for the people we love.


A life of one’s own at the expense of one’s family? Or a life of familial obligation? This is the choice faced by Ada Bergmann. Trapped on a remote island, accessible only by boat, the youthful Ada is burdened by the demands of her widowed mother, the expectations of her ever-patient fiancée Carl Nilssen, and haunted by the prospect of a different life.

Infused with a spirit of tragedy, No Incense Rising is brimming with melodrama and a sense of the gothic: the landscape dominates, wild weather shapes the action, and a sense of menace and looming catastrophe persist throughout. This early example of Dann’s work sits strongly within the sizeable canon of gothic Australian, and particularly Queensland theatre and literature.


George Landen Dann was Queensland’s first major playwright, and still is one of the most valuable artists within the Australian canon. In contrast to the targeted socio-political commentary of Dann’s other works featured in the New Vintage collection, No Incense Rising offers a discussion of deeply personal domestic issues that apply on a national scale.

Part biography, the play’s setting and dramatic tensions set up a gothic, family melodrama. Ava, who is trapped by familial responsibilities and the assumed obligation to remain and care for her mother, is based on Landen Dann’s own struggles. Dislocated from the rest of the world, trapped in a desolate landscape and haunted by the past and dreams of the future, she may also be an allegory for North Queensland’s colonial past and troubled history. The play’s exploration of the parent/child bond encapsulates the same push-pull of life and advancement. The need to acknowledge what has lead to this moment, the desire to grow from and build a future separate to it. The political refracted in the personal.

“The recent interest in gothic theatre, in work that is intense and confronting is perhaps a response to an increasingly complex world where people seek ever more intense experiences to feel alive… With No Incense Rising Dann invites us to contemplate our sense of loyalty and obligation … audiences may find themselves contemplating significant questions of themselves and their relationships – asking what they would sacrifice for others and what is the price of happiness, freedom and love,” Susan Davis.


No Incense Rising was first staged by the Independent Theatre of Sydney in November 1937, and subsequently performed by the Brisbane Repertory Theatre Society and the Dramatists’ Club of Australia (Melbourne) in 1938. No Incense Rising was further awarded 1st prize in Sydney’s Independent Theatre Play Competition in 1937, and 1st prize in the Dramatists Club of Australia Competition in 1938.

ISBN: 978 1 921390 24 1

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