Mrs Pretty and The Premier

by Arthur Adams

Premier William Power: Labor politician, ambitious, driven, oblivious to women. Mrs. Helen Pretty: glamorous widow, wealthy…


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Premier William Power: Labor politician, ambitious, driven, oblivious to women. Mrs. Helen Pretty: glamorous widow, wealthy landowner, fatally attractive. When Power’s Compulsory Resumption of Estates Bill threatens the home and property of Mrs Pretty, she pays the Premier a visit. Throw in the Leader of the Opposition (who just happens to be Mrs Pretty’s fiancée), an aggressively conservative journalist, and watch scandals unravel.

Mrs Pretty and the Premier is an Australian comedy with style, flair, a light touch and a gorgeous pun or two. It offers an entertaining insight into the gender politics of the nineteen teens and asks gentle questions of the business of politics, the role of journalism and the validity of long-held stereotypes.

Historical Significance

Early feminist rumblings and side-eyes abound!

Arthur Adams could easily become the patron-saint of Australian freelance theatre makers. During a time where theatre companies would not produce locally made plays, he was a loud supporter of Australian playwrights and fought for their right to a paycheque and to be recognised as professionals. As if to illustrate his point, it is interesting to note this play has never been professionally produced within Australia, despite it’s time abroad on West End stages.

In Mrs Pretty and the Premier Adams uses his wit and wisdom to create a play that is a template for both commercial success and social commentary/political satire. The over all theme is a socio-political discussion of gender politics. The play touches on women’s place within the public sphere and makes an argument for the power they hold through the very fact of their exclusion. Certainly Mrs Pretty herself is a study in female agency, particularly of that time. With a light touch and a lot of side-eye commentary, this play gives an insight into Australia’s understanding of feminism at the time, and gives the contemporary reader scope to understand its progression as a movement within our society.

“[In] Mrs Pretty he attempts a symbolic ‘marriage’ of often opposed elements: the public and the private, domestic and political, old-money pastoral social privilege and popular democratic progress, masculine rationality and feminine understanding of what really makes people tick,” Veronica Kelly.

Production History

Mrs Pretty and the Premier was first performed in a two-night season at the Athenaeum Theatre on September 26, 1914, by the amateur Melbourne Repertory Theatre. Despite a successful four-week run in London in 1915, Mrs Pretty, like much Australian-grown drama of the time was not professionally performed in Australia for many years. Not until 1951, in a radio broadcast adaption on ABC radio, was Mrs Pretty and the Premier professionally performed in Australia.

ISBN 978 1 921390 25 8

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