Set in the Australian summer of 1967, Michael Gow’s Away is an elaborate play which explores the ideas of self- discovery and change. Through the war affected nation, three families, each from different social classes, depart on an iconic Australian holiday to the beach. In the play, Gow utilises the characters to demonstrate that going away physically is intrinsically linked to their mental developments. With the help of references to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer night’s Dream, Away uses Gwen and Coral to show the significant psychological changes made by the characters during holidays to the coast. Tom throughout the play acts as a catalyst for the change in other characters and is associated with Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
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At the start of the play, Coral is presented as a ghost-like figure, a disturbed person detached from the social world. Her mental problems were caused by her grief from losing her son in the Vietnam War. Just after the performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the school, Gow introduces Coral’s dysfunctional social behaviour by making her uncommunicative and mysterious. When Gwen asks Coral ‘Have you been well?’ (p9), she does not respond and just stares distantly at Gwen; Coral’s behaviour throughout this scene emphasis her dysfunctional and disturbed character. The grieving becomes so intense that throughout the play, Coral pictures other young men as her son. One such case is Tom, when after the school play, Coral says to herself ‘That boy! In that blue light the shadows on his face and neck were like bruises. He looked so sick yet so wonderful, so white, so cold and burning.’ (p12). Later in the play, Coral meets Rick, who she strikes a successful conversation with. The link between Rick and Coral becomes so intense that they meet on a daily basis. Yet, with all this communicating, Coral’s grieving still has a grasp over her as she still sees her son in Rick when she says to him ‘A boy like you...talk...talk to me...say something...laugh...’ (p39). Coral, before her change in her character, is represented as a socially incapable