JACK HIBBERD - Playwright

Born in Warracknabeal in 1940, Jack Hibberd came to the theatre in the late sixties while at the University of Melbourne, where his first play White with Wire Wheels was produced. In 1967 Hibberd’s Three Old Friends launched the La Mama theatre and shortly afterwards a season of short plays Brain Rot was performed there. Hibberd went on to help found The Australian Performing Group.

Jack Hibberd was a member of the APG for ten years and Chairman for two. Plays produced by the APG include his works Dimboola in 1969 (this country’s most performed play), A Stretch of the Imagination (1972), Peggy Sue and The Les Darcy Show (1974). A Toast to Melba premiered at the Adelaide Festival in 1976, the same year as The Overcoat was first produced.

In 1978 the Victorian State Opera commissioned the musical satire Sin. The female monodrama Mothballs was performed in 1981. The following year saw productions of two of Hibberd’s best known works Liquid Amber and Glycerine Tears. Malarky Barks, Death Warmed Up, Lavender Bags, The Old School Tie and Odyssey of a Prostitute were written in the early 1980’s.

Jack co-authored The Barracker’s Bible, a dictionary of Australian sporting slang. Also in 1983, with the Late Dinny O’Hearn, he co-founded the Melbourne Writer’s Theatre. Squibs, a collection of short plays designed for use in schools, was published during 1984.

During the mid-eighties Jack stopped writing for the theatre, returned to medical practice as a clinical immunologist and turned his hand to fiction. Memoirs of an Old Bastard was published in 1989 by McPhee Gribble. It is the first part of The Melbourne Trilogy. The second volume, Perdita, was published in 1992. Another novel by Jack Hibberd, The Life of Riley, appeared earlier in 1990.

On the international stage Hibberd's plays have been seen in a wide range of countries and languages. Who was translated into Indonesian in 1993 (the first Australian play to be performed in that country). Switzerland, Germany, England and New Zealand have seen seasons of Dimboola.

In 1987 A Stretch of the Imagination was performed in Shanghai in Mandarin. In that 800 seat theatre, more Chinese have seen Stretch than Australians despite the five professional and numerous amateur productions of the play in Hibberd's native country. It is published by Currency Press.

Jack has also written poetry and I 1977 published Les Vins des Amants, collection of versions of Baudelaire. He has recently completed a new collection of poems, The Genius of Human Imperfection

Around the turn of the century Jack returned to the theatre, rewriting and restructuring Ginger, a play devised for the female troupe What’s the Deal? He has revised Liquid Amber, a golden wedding play and companion to Dimboola. The two are published by Penguin Books. Hotel Paradiso 1956 premiered in Adelaide in August 1995 and his book on allergies was published by Bookman Press in the same year.

His play Slam Dunk premiered at the Napier Street Theatre, produced by La Mama in June 1995 with another production in Perth mounted by Black Swan Theatre Company. It has now been scheduled for years 10, 11 and 12 syllabi in Victoria, published by Currency Press.

In October 1996 Jack was awarded a two year Fellowship from the Literary Board to allow him to concentrate on writing.

His monologue Lavender Bags has been filmed by TV production company Artists Services as a pilot for a series of plays for television.

In July 1997 the premiere of Long Time No See joined Three Old Friends, the first play performed at La Mama Theatre, to launch the theatre's 30th Birthday celebrations. Also as part of these celebrations a season of one of Hibberd's latest plays, Legacy, premiered at La Mama's Carlton Courthouse. Peter Hosking was in the cast.

In 2001 Jack founded The Tragedy Festival, which enjoyed a season at Chapel-Off-Chapel in Melbourne. The aim is to produce neglected plays of Jack's, and neglected masterpieces from the modernist European stage repertoire, and to nurture young directors.

Jack now works part-time as a clinical immunologist and allergist, and has published The Great Allergy Detective Book. He relishes classical music, jazz, Aussie Rules, gardening, reading and wine. He has four children - Lily, James, Spike and Molly - from two marriages.

Jack's literary agent is AMC (Aust.). Contacted Fran Bryson or John Timlin on:

  • PO Box 1034, Carlton 3053, Australia
  • Tel: 61 3 9347 1800
  • Fax: 61 3 9347 0235
  • Email: almost@mpx.com.au

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