Margaret Williams' Preface

Stretch is a play about death, essentially about the death of the individual, which must be faced alone, as it is with great resilience and good humour, even anticipation, by the octogenarian O'Neill.

Monk, alone in his corrugated iron shack in the back o' beyond, is in a sense the last of his tribe, the 'small pink tribe of mistletoe men' who have mis-populated Australia....he is a distillation of the Australian legend of pioneer, old fossicker, footie hero, womaniser, and of solitary man pitted against the land.

Much of the play is an explicit de-bunking of the legend, but it is also a celebration of the guts and vitality of that legend now on its last legs, and suggests perhaps that with its death the 'small pink tribe' has forfeited its right to the continent it has misappropriated.

But the play widens beyond this to evoke the death not just of the Australian legend, but a whole civilisation with its roots in the classical world, and beyond that, the death of the world itself through some destroyed relation between man and his environment or ultimately through some second engulfing Ice Age.

The dawn-to-dusk cycle, and the inevitability of extinction, suggest a Beckett play; but Stretch is as far removed as possible from the Beckett limbo world. It is an affirmation, even celebration, of life in the face of inevitable death, and an affirmation of death itself as a fulfilment of the whole life cycle in which Monk has so vigorously and variously participated.

Preface to the first edition, A Stretch of the Imagination, Currency Press, 1973

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