RAY LAWLER, a small, compact leprechaun of a man, sat with his hands clasped, and talked quietly of his world of fantasy.

A world lost in the mist of green Irish hills, a place for meditating.

But this idyll is Ray Lawler’s yesterday.

For Ray Lawler, 50, Australian playwright, stepped back into the real world on his arrival in Melbourne yesterday.

Mr Lawler, (of “Summer of the Seventeenth Doll” fame) is here for six weeks to assist in the production of his latest theatrical effort, “The Man Who Shot The Albatross” which will have its world premiere at the Princess Theatre next month.

It is a play about Captain Bligh (of the Bounty, who later became Governor of NSW), an attempt “to solve a rather knotty, historical problem about whether Bligh disgraced himself by acting in a cowardly manner.”

But perhaps more important than the theme, the play reflects something of its writer – in that it was written at all.

For Lawler had worked on the play since 1963. Only recently did he gain the inspiration and motivation to finish it.

This gentle, quiet little man , conservatively almost inconspicuously dressed yesterday, preferred to remain tucked away with his wife, Jacklyn, and three children in his mountain retreat at Ease, in the Wicklow Hills, 25 miles from Dublin.

Until he suddenly realised the years “were slipping away unnoticed and he had done nothing.
“So”, said Ray Lawler yesterday “I decided to do something.”

He admitted a little sadly: “A lot of find that things pile up against us, and we flounder under the pressure. But perhaps I went too far the other way.
“I seemed to spend all my time sitting or walking around, just enjoying myself.
“But there comes a time when you have to decide where you want to go.
“I was beginning to feel that I was out of touch with reality just by staying up in the hills.”

Mr Lawler’s lament faded as he began to talk about his future and more significantly, about the country he left more than 14 years ago.
He smiled as he chatted about his home, and said: “I am still the same boy from Footscray perhaps a little older, still scribbling words on paper.”

Proudly now he added: “I love Ireland and the hills and the greenery. But the whole rhythm of my life is Australia. It’s something instinctive.”
It is an instinct so strong-almost unbelievably so when you listen to his gentle voice- that Mr Lawler wants to stay here.
“If the opportunity is offering, “he said “And if I felt I could be of some use.

“I would like to contribute more to the Australian theatre, perhaps engaging in dialogue with aspiring writers, trying to get them interested in play writing.
“To be something like a sounding board for them, where we could just sit and talk things over. I feel that I would really like to give something of myself in this way.”

And in the next six weeks, Mr Lawler will have every chance to.
Although he has not produced another “Summer of the Seventeenth Doll”, Ray Lawler has not been idle over the past 14 years. He has written several plays for television and has adapted series for the BBC.

“But his present play is different,” he said.
“And I feel I would like this sort of thing to be my future. But then, that depends on others, doesn’t it?”

“The Man Who Shot The Albatross”, starring Australian actor Leo McKern and staged by the Melbourne Theatre Company, will open at the Princess Theatre on October 14.

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