The Display was the first ballet that Robert Helpmann choreographed for the Australian Ballet. With original music by Malcolm Williamson and costumes and set by Sidney Nolan, it premiered at the Adelaide Festival on 14 March 1964 with Kathleen Gorham as the Female, Garth Welch as the Outsider, Bryan Lawrence as the Leader, and Barry Kitcher as the Male (the Lyrebird). Helpmann conceived the idea for a ballet based on the habits of the lyrebird on a visit to Sherbrooke Forest in the Dandenong Ranges when Katharine Hepburn, in Australia in 1955 on tour with the Old Vic company, took him there because she wanted to see a lyrebird dancing. Helpmann eventually dedicated the ballet to Hepburn.
The Display explored ideas of hostility and aggression in Australian society and its name refers to the mating dance of the lyrebird, for which the ornithological term is 'display'. The work was an important milestone for the Australian Ballet and the Australian-ness of the work was the source of much positive comment. Nolan's designs were particularly successful. One contemporary reviewer remarked: 'The ballet's decor, by the painter Sidney Nolan, not merely recreates the haunt of the lyrebird. It is the deep, rich mysterious gloom of a sunlight shafted Australian rainforest with the pillars of its ghostly white gums rising through its depths'.
The Display was a staple in the Australian Ballet repertoire in the early years of the company's history and it was toured extensively in Australia and overseas. The work was revived by the Australian Ballet in 1983 when new costumes were created for it by fashion designer Adele Weiss.
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This collection incluces Malcolm Williamson's score for The Display.
Article by Michelle Potter in National Library of Australia News.