The second Williamson play I chose was The Removalists. This play as well deals with many Australian attitudes, many of which are very accurate representations of the attitudes held by the majority of Australians.
One of the main issues explored in The Removalists is that of police brutality. Simmonds (the veteran police sergeant) and later Ross (a new recruit) are both excessively violent towards Kenny (Fiona’s husband), whom they eventually kill.
There is an attitude of resigned acceptance towards this brutality, as Rob (the removalist), Fiona (who was bashed by Kenny), and Kate (Fiona’s sister) are all present when Simmonds is attacking Kenny, yet none of them attempt to do anything to stop the violence.
Kenny realizes that Simmonds is going to bash him further when Rob, Fiona, and Kate have left, ‘That sergeant’s gonna beat the shit outa me. He’s mad as a bloody snake.’ Later, when Ross goes berserk and attacks Kenny, Simmonds of course does nothing to stop the fighting, and in fact, his first question to Ross is, ‘Did you let him get away?’
The attitude of Australian society at large towards police brutality is accurately portrayed in The Removalists. People are disgusted by police brutality, yet believe that there is little or nothing they can do to stop it. Victims still do not speak out, for fear of further harassment, which has recently been shown by testimony to the Royal Commission into Police Corruption.
Another, perhaps even more important issue explored in The Removalists is that of police corruption. Simmonds is thoroughly corrupt, and by the end of Ross’ first day on the job, Simmonds has already managed to corrupt him as well.
He explains to Ross early on that, ‘Something doesn’t have to be very big before it’s too big for us and likewise, something doesn’t have to be all that small before it’s not worth worrying about,’ therefore the workload at their particular police station is quite low. Simmonds knows of a local prostitution ring, yet does nothing to bring those involved to justice, ‘Well, there’s a very attractive group of young girls a block or two from the station who, well the fact is their very high-class call girls.’
Then, when he realizes that he and Ross have gone too far in bashing Kenny, he offers to organize free time with these prostitutes for Kenny in exchange for his silence about the bashing. However, when Kenny dies from his injuries a short while later, it is Ross who goes berserk, suggesting that ‘Let’s get a shotgun and make it look like a suicide. Shoot his bloody head off.’
The attitudes expressed towards the extensive police corruption in The Removalists are quite realistic. After Kenny begs Rob to call in police from another station, the removalist says, ‘You must be mad. Do you think they’d come down and collar their own mates?’ The recent Royal Commission has revealed that police corruption is a widespread and severe problem in Australia.
However, until now, attitudes have again been those of resigned acceptance, as people believed that there was little that could be done about corrupt police, as officers stick together and most courts believe the word of a police officer over that of the accused.
Another central issue in The Removalists is that of domestic violence. Williamson portrays issues and attitudes surrounding domestic violence and its demoralizing effects on women. For example, Fiona says, ‘It hardly inspires confidence when you’re made love to one minute and bashed up the next.’
Simmonds takes the socially expected attitude of disgust against Kenny, but in reality, he has ulterior motives for even aiding Fiona and Kate at all, and he also uses it as an excuse to bash Kenny. However, the play does make the point that although domestic violence is considered unacceptable by most of society, it is still occurring, and little is being done to stop it.
Other important attitudes explored in Williamson’s play are those of law and order, and of anti-authoritarianism. The audience is left wondering how society can expect law and order when those whose job it is to enforce the law break it themselves on a regular basis.
Anti-authoritarian attitudes are also expressed, for example, when Kenny disobeys Simmonds’ orders to shut up even though he knows it will result in further bashing. Such anti-authoritarian attitudes can be in some ways regarded as typically Australian.
The Removalists express a number of attitudes about Australian society including those regarding police brutality and corruption, domestic violence, law and order, and anti-authoritarianism. The majority of ideas presented about these are accurate representations of the attitudes held by most Australians and are very relevant, even today.
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