Here from There – travel, television and touring revues: internationalism as entertainment in the 1950s and 1960s

Jonathan Bollen


Australian audiences for popular entertainments in the 1950s and 1960s were alive to theatrical depictions of cultural difference. Touring revues from overseas tapped into audience desires to see the national cultures of the world on stage. When Australian-based producer Tibor Rudas toured Oriental Cavalcade with performers imported by air from Japan, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Thailand to audiences in Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, Adelaide and Broken Hill, he promised to deliver ‘the mystery of Siam, the fascination of China, the excitement of Malaya, the enchantment of India, revealed in the most provocative, the most hilarious way’. 
Each of the major producers of commercial entertainment in mid-twentieth century Australia tried their hand at importing revues from Europe, Africa, North and South America, and East Asia. Like their counterparts in Hong Kong and Singapore, the entrepreneurs in Australia harnessed an increasing global flow in the performers of national cultures, at a time when national governments, encouraged by their participation in the United Nations, were adopting cultural policies to foster national distinction and engaging in diplomacy and promotion by sending troupes of entertainers on tour as national ambassadors. 
This article explores the significance of the ‘exotic’ revue as live entertainment in mid-twentieth century Australia. At a time when television viewing was becoming a regular domestic routine and international air travel was becoming an affordable indulgence, theatre producers offered audiences in the theatre experiences of being away from home, akin to tourism and travel beyond the domestic scene. What was the significance of these entertainments based on travel, tourism and the exotic? How did ‘exotic’ revues forge relations between the national authenticity of folkloric traditions and the technological innovations of internationlist entertainment?

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Popular Entertainment Studies ISSN 1837-9303