“You’re in Trouble Mate”: Prison and Screen Practice
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Written from the perspective of a working actor/director (and academic), this chapter is based on two principal examples: Bruce Beresford’s Breaker Morant (1980), my first film as an actor; and my own The Last Man Hanged (Fitz-Gerald 1992), my first as director. Both works are based on powerful national narratives of crime and punishment; both disrupt comforting notions of guilt and innocence; and both confirm lingering preoccupations with Australia’s colonial origins and the mythos of the island prison. The chosen works offer contrasting opportunities to discuss representation: the verisimilitude of Beresford’s drama versus the theatricality of my dramatised documentary. My research processes (as actor and director) reflect my direct experiences of HM Prison Pentridge’s notorious D division, of the dusty dark of Burra Gaol, and of the dank misery of Sydney’s Paddington Barracks. The paper will contend that the enduring power and adaptability of the prison narrative in Australian film and television is linked to fading but still resonant notions of national identity: the mistrust of power, stoic endurance, and defiant courage.
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