Ned Kelly: The legend, the myth, the hero, the outlaw, the enduring cultural icon.
The life and death of one of Australia’s most notorious figures has captured the imagination of a nation for the last 130 years. Since the 1870s the stories of Ned Kelly have echoed throughout Australian history: the Stringybark Massacre, the Eurora bank robbery, the murder of police informer Aaron Sherrit and of course the siege of Glenrowan. In Arnold Denham and Another’s The Kelly Gang nothing has been overlooked, as the entire story of Australia’s most famous criminals comes to life.
Just like the Kelly myth itself, The Kelly Gang is brimming with humour and hyperbole. With a comprehensive and well-researched intoduction by Richard Fotheringham, this is a text that is sure to please all fans of Australian history and theatre alike.
Arnold Denham and Another’s The Kelly Gang is, to this day, one of the best known and most performed productions of the Kelly Gang legend and goes to prove that men may pass on and memories may fade, but legends will never die.
Cattle thief, brother, national hero, murderer. The legend continues.
It appears Arnold Denham, like Ned and the Gang, was a crook. Having only a whisper of theatrical experience and no other written work (published or otherwise), he made do with an enthusiasm for litigation. This led “his” play to become the best-known dramatisation of the story of Ned Kelly. A perfect match for a tale concerning a group of people so indifferent to authority and the laws that offended them.
Why has an outlaw been our chosen icon for hundreds of years? Perhaps it is our history as a penal colony that has enabled Ned Kelly to be one of Australia’s most important legends. He is undoubtedly the culmination of a number of the aspects used to construct our national identity: distrust for authority, the embattled everyman, fierce friend, and rough gentleman. However he does cause some problems for a nation that prides itself on fairness, because he highlights the double standards. How can we gleefully laud a man as a heroic legend, when he committed cold-blooded murder? For a country that is so quick to paint itself as the progressive champion of the working class, while simultaneously violating no less than eight points of the UN human rights act, it’s an uncomfortably snug fit.
First performed in 1899, The Kelly Gang, has been staged many, many times by both professional and amateur theatre groups right around Australia.