Swamp Creatures

Swamp Creatures is a play by the Australian author Alan Seymour. He wrote it for radio, stage and TV. It was Seymour's first produced play.

Swamp Creatures
Written byAlan Seymour
Date premiered1 November 1957
Place premieredCanberra
Original languageEnglish


Two sisters live together in the Australian bush, the dominant Constance and the frail Amy. Amy's son Christian returns after having disappeared when he was in his teens. For Constance, the swamp is a symbol of life. For Amy it is a nightmare.

It turns out genetic experiments were made by a driven woman and her handyman, Charlie Fall.


The play was written in 1955–56. In 1956 it was the runner-up in a play competition held by the Journalists' Club and judged by the Playwrights' Advisory Board. In 1957 it was one of the twenty-five finalists in the play competition held by the London Observer.[1]

It was first performed by the Canberra Repertory Society in 1957.[2][3][4]

Cast of original productionEdit

  • Joyce Goodes as Constance
  • Barbara Shanahan as Amy
  • Michael Dennis as Christian
  • Harry Schmidt as Mr Fall
  • Daphne Curtis as Mrs Fall


The play was based on a true story about an old woman who lived near a swamp and disappeared.[5]

1960 TV adaptationEdit

Swamp Creatures
Ad from the Age 19 Oct 1960
Based onplay by Alan Seymour
Written byAlan Seymour
Directed byRaymond Menmuir
StarringJacqueline nott
Country of originAustralia
Original language(s)English
Running time75 mins
Production company(s)ABC
Original networkABV-2 (Melbourne)
Original release13 July 1960 (Sydney, live)[6][7]
1 August 1960 (Brisbane)[8]
19 October 1960 (Melbourne, taped)[9]

The play was filmed for TV by the ABC in 1960.[10][11] At the time Australian drama production on television was rare.[12]

The play was repeated on TV in 1962.[13][14]


  • Jacqueline Kott as Caroline
  • Lynne Murphy as Amy
  • Graham Hill as Christian
  • Marion Johns as Mrs Fall
  • Frank Walters as Mr Fall


In September 1959 it was announced that the ABC had created a TV Writers Pool, with the aim of teaching local writers the techniques of learning for the screen. There were ten initial members: Alan Seymour, Jeff Underhill, Richard Lane, Barbara Vernon, D'arcy Niland and Ruth Park, Gwen Meredith, Kay Keaveny, Peter Kenna and Coral Lansbury.[15]

Early Australian TV drama production was dominated by using imported scripts but in 1960 the ABC was undertaking what has been described as "an Australiana drive" of producing local stories.[16] Swamp Creatures was one in a series of ten plays made by the ABC in 1960 using local writers, others including The Astronauts and The Slaughter of St Teresa's Day[17]

Floor assistant David Twiby recalled that during the making of Swamp Creatures, the smoke machine caused a stage hand to nearly die during the broadcast.[18]


The Sunday Sydney Morning Herald TV critic called it "one of the finest drama efforts I have seen done here. Both from a technical and acting point of view, it couldn't be faulted... it gripped the interest from the first sequence. A scene where the two demented sisters stage a dream party in the near empty house was a brilliant piece of work."[19]

Another Herald critic said the production "was at least successful in showing how a handful of characters can be marshalled to produce gripping theatre" but thought "the central issues are somewhat cloudily expressed. It is as if Seymour, having bunched these characters in a relatively surreal situation, is content to pile shock on shock at the expense of fully developing the main thread: that humanism rather than science is the answer"[20]

Other adaptationEdit

The play was adapted for radio by the ABC in 1958.

The play was intended to be adapted as a feature film by Kevin Powell and Anthony Buckley Productions but no film resulted.[21]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "NEW REP. PLAY WILL BE WORLD PREMIERE". The Canberra Times. 31 (9, 310). 26 October 1957. p. 2. Retrieved 9 June 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  2. ^ Alan Seymour obituary
  3. ^ "New Repertory Play Soon". The Canberra Times. 25 October 1957. p. 2. Retrieved 3 April 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  4. ^ "Repertory Does Full Justice To Excellent Play". The Canberra Times. 2 November 1957. p. 2. Retrieved 3 April 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ "NEW REP. PLAY WILL BE WORLD PREMIERE". The Canberra Times. 26 October 1957. p. 2. Retrieved 3 April 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ "Advertisement". Sydney Morning herald. 13 July 1960. p. 21.
  7. ^ "Advertising". The Canberra Times. 35 (9, 746). 31 October 1960. p. 11. Retrieved 8 May 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "Sinister Sisters". TV Times. 28 July 1960. p. 15.
  9. ^ """Brink" Drama on TV". The Age. 13 October 1960. p. 14.
  10. ^ 1960 TV production details at AusStage
  11. ^ "Weird Drama". The Age. 25 August 1960. p. 14.
  12. ^ Vagg, Stephen (February 18, 2019). "60 Australian TV Plays of the 1950s & '60s". Filmink.
  13. ^ "LIVE DRAMA AND MUSIC ON ABC TELEVISION". The Canberra Times. 11 December 1962. p. 27. Retrieved 3 April 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
  14. ^ "Swamp Creatures". Sydney Morning Herald. 11 July 1960. p. 13.
  15. ^ "Local Writers "Pool" for More TV Plays". Sydney Morning Herald. 28 September 1959. p. 15.
  16. ^ Vagg, Stephen (October 19, 2020). "Forgotten Australian TV Plays – The Slaughter of St Teresa's Day". Filmink.
  17. ^ Marshall, Valda (January 31, 1960). "TV Merry Go Round". Sydney Morning Herald. p. 80.
  19. ^ Marshall, Valda (17 July 1960). "TV Merry-go-round". Sydney Morning Herald. p. 45.
  20. ^ "TV play Gripping Theatre". Sydney Morning Herald. 14 July 1960. p. 11.
  21. ^ Copy of script for BBC TV version at National Film and Sound Archive

External linksEdit