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Treadmill by Lorna Bol



THEMES: Australian Coastal Life, Female Identity, Poverty
Length: 1.5 Hours
CAST SIZE: 3 – 4 Cast Members

Ma is tough on Ruby, her only daughter and daily annoyance. 


Life is tough for Ma McTaggart and Ma is tough on Ruby, her only daughter and daily annoyance. Ma and her son, the faultless fisherman Dick, together with Ruby, eke out an existence in a small town on the North Coast of New South Wales. Aside from visits from her docile friend Dot, Ruby finds nothing but hard work and harsh words at home. Seeking solace elsewhere, Ruby falls pregnant to a married man and so, unwittingly, she sets off a series of tragic events that see the treadmill of drudgery continue to turn. Simultaneously, as their fates unravel, Ma and her daughter grow further apart yet closer together than ever before. It seems there is no escaping the cycle that haunts them.

Set in the 1940s in a North Coast town of New South Wales Treadmill captures the economic, educational and, arguably, emotional poverty that women such as Ma, Ruby and Dot were faced with. The three women of the play are trapped in bodies that will never be as useful as a man’s. Their unique, authentic dialect is as raw and honest as the words they speak: their words damage, divide, drive apart and bring death. Yet they cannot harness the power of speech to change their path in an impoverished, patriarchal society. And thus the treadmill claims them.

History Significance

From the words and their rhythm to the events that take place, this is a tragedy in the truest sense.

Treadmill encapsulates all the possibilities the characters have; the heartbreak is in how few there are. As the title suggests, it is about two women who have to keep moving but are unable to gain any ground. A feeling shared by so many Australians who feel trapped in a system that has forsaken them.

This story is particularly relevant in the current global political climate, where politicians are elected based on promises they make to help people in this low socio-economic bracket help themselves. And as elected officials, they perpetuate the cycle of broken promises and neglect.

“Treadmill was born of childhood memories of a family who lived in a small fishing and tourist resort on the North Coast of New South Wales. The events in the play are true, but I have used licence to “ fill out” the characters so as to portray (hopefully) the awful prison that poverty, environment, lack of education and opportunity made for the women who lived in those towns at that time,” Lorna Bol, 1984.

Production History

Treadmill was first produced at La Boite Theatre, Brisbane in 1977 as part of a season of Queensland plays. It has since been performed in theatres across New South Wales and Victoria.

ISBN: 978 1 921390 32 6

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