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Both schools of thought influenced the development of theatre in Australia in the nineteenth century. Just as two attitudes grew, so too did the two means of expressing them. Popular and legitimate theatre arose simultaneously during the nineteenth century in Australia. Historian Richard Waterhouse refers to this development as the "bifurcation of Australian Theatre."

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Australian theatre began a year after the establishment of Sydney as a penal colony in 1788. In 1789, a play was performed to celebrate the birthday of King George of England. The play was called "The Recruiting Officer " and was presented by a cast of convicts. It concerned the recruitment of men for the army, in a small town, and was a comedy. It was performed in bleak surroundings, in a convict's hut, and observed by an audience of around sixty. Most of the audience were officers of the garrison. The Governor also attended

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Sydney Theatre Company has been a major force in Australian drama since its establishment in 1978. The Company presents an annual season of diverse productions at …

In 1910, The Referee newspaper published an article discussing the creation of new theatres in Sydney. The article distinguished between "theatres" and such places as the Tivoli, and the National Amphitheatre. These two being variety halls associated with the "popular" form of entertainment. The distinction suggested that there was still a stigma attached to the popular type of theatre. The article stated that by the end of 1910 the city of Sydney expected to be hosting twenty houses of public amusement. Included in this were picture theatres. It was a large number for a small city of only 600 thousand people. It indicated the popularity of theatre in Australian life.

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The lack of proper theatre buildings in the country also contributed to the cross over . Often Opera, Drama and variety would share the same stage. Primarily because there were few specialised opera houses or music halls available. For example in 1855 The Olympic Theatre in Melbourne opened with the Wizard Jacob's tricks, and was followed by the drama

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In 1874 J C Williamson and his wife Maggie Moore made their first appearances in Australia. Sydney in 1879 saw the first sanctioned performances of HMS Pinafore. At the end of the 1880s Ibsen's The Dolls House was presented at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne.

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The situation in Australia was different. There was considerable cross over between the audiences of popular and legitimate theatre. People from all walks of life had attended both kinds of theatre because of limited choice. Entertainment in 19th Century Australia was scarce and people, regardless of wealth or social standing were keen to experience it. A small population, especially in the early years of the colony, also contributed to this cross over.

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The gold rush of the 1850s also led to an increase in popular theatre production. The influx of gold seekers, primarily young men, into the colonies lead to a demand for more earthy, frivolous entertainment. This demand was met by a number of touring companies, many of whom brought the minstrel tradition to Australia

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Australian theatre has a long and distinguished history. It is a history which was influenced by the two great western powers, the United States and Britain. The influence of the British tradition on Australian theatre should not be underestimated. British born entrepreneurs were the fathers of Australian theatre. Despite the shadow of the two great powers, Australian theatre had it's own peculiar characteristics. It grew to be a unique institution for a unique land.