Is There Something Wrong With That Lady?

Is There Something Wrong With That Lady?
By Debra Oswald. Ensemble Theatre, Sydney. Directed by Lee Lewis. 18 September – 14 October 2023

Following the highly successful staging of her play Mr Bailey’s Minder with actor John Gaden in late July, Debra Oswald returns to the Ensemble with this memoir of her life as a writer, featuring... herself. It’s a repeat of the show she gave at the Stables Theatre, Kings Cross, two years ago and is directed by the same excellent director, Lee Lewis.

Her beguiling, straightforward honesty comes across immediately and the audience – not for a moment likely to doubt her chosen words – are in her hands as she tells us of growing up in the Sydney suburb of Carlingford and her (very) early attempts at play writing. We’re also on board for junior hypochondriacs and first boyfriends. 

A late starter, there’s first sex at 17 with, she says, a Christian Elf, before she moves effortlessly to long-time partner Richard (Glover, you can’t not recognise him!), with whom she builds a family home in the bush.

All this time she’s writing away. Telly scripts from the age of 22, then Police Rescue, Bananas in Pyjamas, Magic Mountain and Secret Life of Us lead to the first five series of the hit show Offspring.

A trip to the BBC in London with a whole pile of possible stuff shows the way her career could go: but it ends up going nowhere, fast. This is the writer’s lot, especially female writers at the turn of the century. In London all she hears about is David Hare.

Back in Sydney, she readjusts her aim, throws many ideas on the carpet at her feet. Surely something will come of her hours of planning and hoping? That’s life in the theatre and television for many, many talented people.

But Debra Oswald is no loser. Not the foremost actress, she works away at her scripts, forever hopeful, forever expectant, forever clear-eyed and compassionate.

Frank Hatherley

Photographer: Prudence Upton

Subscribe to our E-Newsletter, buy our latest print edition or find a Performing Arts book at Book Nook.