Jasna Novaković concludes her intimate look at the life and legacy of the late Peter Oyston, educator and director, whose ‘charismatic inspiration and vision’ helped shape a generation of actors and writers, transforming the Australian performing arts scene. Read Part 1 of this article»
By the time of applying for the position of Dean (Drama) at the Victorian College of the Arts, Oyston had also taught at East 15, at Preston Polytechnic and at Lancaster University. In his response to the selection criteria he put an accent on the need to create regional theatres in Victoria, suggesting that he develop a course designed to teach prospective theatre makers not only the acting skills but other ‘survival skills’ as well. On the panel which approved the drama curriculum set up by Oyston upon appointment in 1976 were David Williamson, John Sumner and George Fairfax. They gave the new dean free hands to form his team of teachers. Among those he brought from the UK were actor Christopher Crooks, movement teacher William Zappa and the designer John Beckett, artists he could trust to share his vision. For the voice teacher, however, he chose an Australian, Wendy Robertson, aware of the importance of language to theatre creators in search of ways to connect to the local culture. Juggling, fire-eating, acrobatics, singing and mime teachers were also Australians ‘who supported his philosophy,’ writes Meme McDonald in an essay on her life in community theatre inspired by Oyston.
The students selected to pioneer the project were an ‘unconventional’ bunch, McDonald recalls.
‘Peter’s radical experiment is to choose first generation artists for training, not those born to the theatre or with an arts background. We have less bad theatre habits, he says.
‘For entry to the course he has chosen a shark fisherman, a nurse, a couple of school teachers, a secretary, a crim recently released from a seven-year incarceration, a child television prodigy who’d already had enough, a dealer, a psychologist of course, a boxer who had stepped out of the ring at an early age to become a showman, the ethnically diverse, some token seasoned performers—and me … the girl from the bush.’
Those admitted into the course may not have had bad habits, but they had no control over their impulses either. Their training began with acting from the pelvis, rather than ‘bosom acting’ centred on vocal colouring. Whatever action they performed, their whole body had to actively participate in it. Hannie Rayson compares that ‘full bodied commitment’ to ‘ecstatic motion’ that the 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi (the father of all dervishes) practiced. Its implication transpires with a glimpse at the epigraph used by Rayson to set the stage for the chapter of her autobiography Hello, Beautiful! on the training she received at VCA, while Oyston was dean. It reads: ‘Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.’ Such a profound impact did Rumi’s rule have on them that a fragment of his verse was scratched onto the door in one of the girls’ toilets. But in order to be vehicles of ecstatic motion, the students’ posture had to improve first. Indeed, it did by the end of the year, so much so that some of them had grown by several centimetres. ‘We had unlearned our bad physical habits and returned to “a balanced state of rest and poise”—the mantra of the Alexander technique. Our bodies had become well aligned,’ Rayson writes.
Everything the first ‘unconventional’ intake and, later, Rayson and her classmates learned at VCA was designed to empower them to become theatre creators. The elective program comprised a wide spectrum of classes, from those teaching circus skills and how to make puppets to improvisation and how to create theatre in unorthodox venues. In her autobiography, Rayson lists many more skills they could learn in order to make theatre without endlessly waiting for a call from their agent. Finding a story was one of them.
‘The greatest lesson Oyston taught me was that Australian culture was in the process of being created.
‘Australian theatre was at the frontier and we were the discovery party ... Sure, we [Australians] wanted to see the best from around the world. But we also needed to make our own.’
Oyston’s rationale for focusing his students on Australian experience was closely bound up with his understanding of the role of art in society. ‘The arts come out of conflict. They work best when they come out of the unresolved struggles in society, rather than when they’re imported as some kind of glossy diversion,’ he explained in an interview with Philippa Hawker for The Age. And he gave an example. A group of kids develops a show which opens with two gangs meeting on a train. They make the show with the help of theatre youth workers, and all their energy gets ‘some kind of focus’.
‘There must be facilities, including human ways of expression, for unsmothering what we want, dream of, hope for, hate and love,’ Oyston said to Philippa Hawker.
Peter Oyston in his 50s.
Image courtesy of Helen Martineau.
Peter Oyston (far right) as Madam Ess, a pantomime dame character, in an early WEST production of 'The Westside Show'. Phil Sumner as Dr Ponds, entrepreneur extraordinaire, is on the left of the local resident and at the back is Greg Sneddon as Roy, piano-player and general carnival roustabout.
Image courtesy of Phil Sumner.
To generate support without which his ‘experiment’ stood no chance of succeeding, Oyston invited theatre company representatives, agents, critics and journalists to meet Company 78, as the thirty enrolled in the first year of intake were to call themselves in due course. He organised a similar meeting a month before their graduation. The Age correspondent Margaret Geddes reported:
‘We were there, Mr Oyston explained, to consider whether these students—soon to be on the job market—would join the 86 per cent of Australian actors out of work.’
Recognising it was no marketing ploy, Geddes backed up the statistics with a reminder that both J.C. Williamson’s and Old Tote had folded and the subsidies to the arts bodies had dwindled due to inflation. The projects some students had already set rolling held the promise of reversing the trend. Geddes quoted one of them: ‘We are going to initiate things, there’s no doubt about that.’ Self-confidence is a mark of youth, but in this case, there was more to it.
One of the key strategies Oyston applied in his work with students at VCA was to study regional population densities, including those country towns in Victoria and outer suburbs of Melbourne which conceived of themselves as communities. The fledgling artists from Company 78 were themselves ‘a microcosm of Australia’. They had an intimate knowledge of diverse communities and the issues people cared about. But to make meaningful theatre, they also needed to fend off hostile forces and, importantly, remove the traps set by the artist’s ego, which is why the teaching methods were designed to cultivate in them a sense of a closely-knit community where everyone had a voice. ‘We use “the buzz”—a technique for achieving consensus,’ McDonald writes as she recalls how they sat in a circle at company meetings and discussed ideas. For, this is what community theatre is about.
‘Skills can always be learnt when you need them,’ Peter says. ‘It’s ideas that really matter,’ she cites the teacher who has sent her down the path of community service through art.
For Oyston, theatre made without passion had no meaning. Under the enduring spell of Greek theatre he watched as a young man—the theatre rooted in myth and ritual through which the ancients explained the world—he saw performance as an expression of the human condition, not just entertainment. For his students, he set the task of identifying a human condition observable in Australia of the day or, perhaps, in their immediate surroundings. Among the first to come up with an idea were Meme (Jan) McDonald, Linda Waters, Alex Black and Hazel Barry. Their community performance was to be about stay-at-home mums, housewives, women struggling ‘to stay sane in their suburban isolation’. A search for venue proved unnecessary. Upon reading in the newspapers about Oyston’s new approach to theatre, the then director of YMCA Victoria offered a space at the centre to the four. The monodrama Roma they created ‘with and for women in the neighbourhood of the centre’ turned into an immersive experience for all, McDonald recalls.
‘Housewives, a hundred or more women at each performance, call out to an actor (Hazel Barry) as she wanders mindlessly around her kitchen doing chores. They encourage her to stay positive, correcting her mistakes, answering her soliloquies. Roma is her audience, engaged with them in a rowdy exchange.’
A production of Roma at the Playbox Upstairs Theatre in November 1978, with Maggie Millar in the title role, had a completely different effect on the audience. Seated comfortably in their seats and unable to participate, they saw the play as ‘a tragedy’. The creators of Roma reasserted their viewpoint the following year by a film adaptation of their work titling it Just An Ordinary Life.
Buoyed by the success of their maiden project, McDonald, Waters and two more actors from Company 78, Ian Shrives and Phil Sumner, formed upon graduation a full-time professional community theatre calling it West Theatre Company. Set up ‘in a small broken-down hall in Essendon’, it was deemed by a council worker a doomed project. He promised McDonald, artistic director of the company, ‘to bare his bum in Myer’s window at Christmas’ if they succeeded. ‘West runs successfully for ten years creating original theatre for hundreds of thousands,’ she remarks gleefully.
Two more state and federally funded professional community theatre companies grew out of the course at VCA. In 1979, Robert ‘Bomber’ Perrier, Mark Sherrifs and Lloyd Suttor formed The Murray River Performing Group. They based it in Albury-Wodonga because the town had two names and a split identity that a theatre company could fuse, but also because it sat on two banks of the Murray, one in Victoria and the other in NSW, which meant that the company could get funding from both city councils. It was the International Year of the Child and the enterprising MRPG came up with an idea for a children’s holiday program. Helped by a few circus artists, they ‘trained more than 80 school children from the region over a six-week period’, in the company’s own account of its past. The show they called The Flying Fruit Fly Circus and performed in a circus big top was a resounding success. The name, a reference to the damaging fruit fly—the spread of which a quarantine station on the Causeway sought to prevent—stuck. Ever since Flying Fruit Fly Circus’s first international exposure at the Vancouver Children’s Festival, this tongue-twister has become the symbol of a particular style of performance.
Landmark projects with China’s Nanjing Acrobatic Troupe and Moscow Circus have led to further refinement of their skills and invitations from all corners of the world to spark the magic of circus, their way. With it, they keep enchanting audiences as distant culturally as Turkey and Cambodia, and in the time gaps between international tours they swing, juggle and hover in the air for their compatriots. Once a year Australia’s National Youth Circus also runs the two-week National Training Program open to all those ‘serious’ about their art, with one provision only—that they are aged 12 years and above.
This year (2019) Flying Fruit Fly Circus celebrates its 40th birthday, and yet they state, ‘At our heart, we are still all about ordinary kids doing extraordinary things.’
Poster for the inaugural season of the Flying Fruit Fly Circus, May 1979.
Courtesy of the Flying Fruit Fly Circus.
Theatre Works, Acland Street, St Kilda.
Photo by Jasna Novaković.
The community theatre created by Hannie Rayson and four other VCA graduates—Susie Fraser, Caz Howard, Peter Summerfeld and Peter Finlay—survives to this day, too. Initially, their intention was to bring the art of performance to the people of Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. Finlay called it ‘Kafka country’. ‘Existential despair hung in the air like smog. There was no street life, no coffee, no migrants,’ writes Rayson in Hello, Beautiful! before citing an extract from their manifesto:
‘Theatre Works aims to create work which is pertinent to contemporary Australian lives, and which reflects the energies of urban life, building a symbolic vocabulary which will serve and sustain people in their search for meaning and identity.’
In the work they devised first, The Go Anywhere (Within Reason) Show centred on family life, they employed ‘every trick they had learned at drama school’. It was performed 178 times. The setting of their next show Storming Mont Albert by Tram was an actual tram travelling into the city and back. Along the route, some actors alighted and others boarded the tram, while the audience numbers increased modestly with an entry of an unwitting passenger into the story which, as a result, could only be partly scripted. The show became so popular that it warranted a sequel from Paul Davies in 1983.
Theatre Works has found itself a permanent home in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburb of St Kilda, enduring all changes of public policy and box office returns for thirty-eight years.
Rayson, however, had already begun to feel that ‘she wasn’t an actress’ while at VCA. One day she came to Oyston with a confession, ‘I want to be a writer.’ Caught by surprise, Oyston ‘gazed out the window for an interminable moment,’ and then opened the top drawer of his desk, took out a key and said: ‘”That’s yours. Your room, okay? We need playwrights. Go and write a play.” And I did,’ Rayson states with obvious satisfaction.
Other VCA graduates found application for the ideas and skills learnt under Oyston’s tutelage by pushing the boundaries of popular genres. As early as in 1977 a ‘puppetry collective’ Handspan was created with the aim of communicating ideas ‘in ways more visual than verbal … [i]ntegrating a puppetry sensibility with other theatre forms’, notably the booth, shadow puppet and marionette shows prevalent in Australia of the day, as acknowledged on the Arts Centre Melbourne: Performing Arts Collection website. The collective format, the use of multimedia either on conventional stages or in site-specific spaces, the scaling down of shows to suit venues as small as shop front windows were all strategies Oyston was teaching. Indeed, it was the inspiration each new intake of students derived from his ideas that Oyston considered his ‘real contribution’ to the Australian theatre over the period of eight years, as founding Dean (Drama) at VCA.
In recognition of his power of vision, Oyston was the individual winner of the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award in 1985-86. Created the year before, the award has ever since been decided on a national basis taking into consideration not only an individual or group past achievement but also the potential ‘to continue their contribution to Australian society through the performing arts into the future’.
Oyston’s vision of vocational training ‘markedly different from the mainstream program at NIDA’ is precisely what Geoffrey Milne highlights in his account of the development of vocational training schools in this land. In his book Theatre Australia (Un)limited: Australian theatre since the 1950s, he explains that ‘[r]ather than train actors and directors largely for the screen and the first-wave theatre companies, Oyston opted to give actors, directors, writers, stage managers, designers and technicians three years of training by forming them into small theatre companies based on their year of intake’.
‘One particular sub-group of students at the VCA were called “animateurs”: people who were rarely puppeteers (as the name might suggest) but primary creators who could make new theatre works of various kinds in various conditions. In the spirit of the age, Oyston’s plan was to make these groups self-reliant and able to create theatre in response to what was going on in the world around them.’
Milne confirms that ‘Oyston’s agenda strongly influenced the beginnings of the community theatre movement in Victoria’. At the peak of its expansion, ironically, the rumblings began. Helen Martineau, Oyston’s wife of 17 years, attributes it partly to Oyston’s ‘uncompromising rejection of any kind of mediocrity or group consciousness’. ‘As long as I had known him, this had ruffled feathers,’ she says in an email.
After resigning from VCA in 1984 over a disagreement about funding, Oyston found a temporary niche in television directing an Australian police drama Cop Shop for Crawford Productions. Driven by the wish to take the clichés out of the performances, he went with the police for about a fortnight—embedded as it were—to get ‘the real flavour of what happened on the streets’. (Private Communication 2009) But when he tried to pitch his ideas to Crawford, they would have none of it.
Then the position of artistic director at the Playbox Theatre Company came up and with it an opportunity for Oyston to revive the ‘formula’ created in England and at VCA in a bid to secure a new lease of life to the Melbourne-based theatre. For, Playbox was in debt and a fire had left the company homeless threatening its very survival. The eight new shows that a wide audience could connect with turned the box office around. Lilly and May, ‘a very small play’ for two actors by Patricia Cornelius was one of those Oyston remembered ever so fondly. It played at the Studio, the smallest theatre in the newly built Melbourne Arts Centre, and the set designer was Michael Leunig who was soon to win widespread acclaim as The Age newspaper cartoonist and columnist. A Leunig cartoon also features centrally in the image composed to showcase Black Rabbit, a play by Ray Mooney that opened under Oyston’s direction on 7 March 1988 again at the Studio. Set in the outback, it shone a light on the chasm between mythic consciousness (the Dreaming) and rationality (the settlers’ logic of reason), raising the issues that kept widening the gap between them, issues way beyond the controversy of terra nullius and the discordant attitudes to nature. The veracity of the conflict of interest was accentuated by the casting: indigenous actors played indigenous characters. Mooney says it was an underlying principle: ‘Peter was totally committed to encouraging indigenous stories into mainstream—and he was the driving force in encouraging indigenous applicants to apply for VCA, such as Kylie Belling, Yvette Issacs (Maroochy Barambah) and Pauly Prior.’ Belling played in Black Rabbit the young indigenous woman Djala opposite Gnarnayarrahe Waitairie cast as Jala Jala. One more credit needs emphasising. Couched in poetic language, itself a reflection of two irreconcilable world views, the play called for a sensitive set and lighting design realised in production by Kathryn Sproul and John Beckett, respectively. It was the same John Beckett who had come to Australia upon Oyston’s invitation to join the VCA staff back in 1976. Twelve years on, Beckett was working in parallel on a far bigger project; he was ‘primarily responsible’ for the broad layout of the entire Playbox Theatre complex as well as ‘the brilliant design and detailed technical specifications of both play spaces’ then under construction, as recorded in the company’s monograph published for its 21st anniversary. The more intimate of the two auditoria has been named The Beckett in his honour.
A page from the 1998 season program, Part I, featuring a Michael Leunig cartoon, Playbox Theatre, Melbourne
Photo by Jeff Busby. Australian Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne.
Former home of the Playbox Theatre at 53-55 Exhibition Street, Melbourne.
Photo by Jasna Novaković.
Oyston himself designed and directed a dark comedy Benny Wallis Meets his Maker about trade practices and suicide by Sydney-based playwright John Collins and, together with his later appointed co-artistic director Carrillo Gantner, he saw Cho Cho San by Daniel Keene, et al. go on tour to Northern Territory, Perth, Adelaide and three Chinese cities—Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai, organised in association with Australian Bicentennial Authority. The 1988 season closed with Stephen Sewell’s play Hate, now an Australian classic, on ‘the shallow history that lies beneath the Australian ruling class’, as the playwright described it, talking with Michael Shmith in The Age.
Somewhere around this time the Oyston story begins to repeat. Unable to reconcile his vision with that of Gantner’s, Oyston resigns after spending just eighteen months in office. A brief news item in The Age of 17 November 1988 reads: ‘Mr Oyston, who has been overseas for the past few months, could not be contacted for comment’.
The experience had catapulted Oyston back to England where he freelanced for ten years. For the Liverpool Playhouse, he did a production which would live with him always—that of Murder in the Cathedral set in one of the largest ecclesiastical spaces in Europe, Liverpool Cathedral, and with real horses in it. At the Royal Court he directed Magic by Jilly Fraser, a play about kids on drugs. He also directed Fraser’s play I Can Give You a Good Time having done it previously at the Playbox and having toured with it around Australia.1. Over the years, Oyston directed three more plays by Ray Mooney, the playwright who emerged from the first year of intake at VCA, beginning with Hard Labour, Mate (co-written with Oyston in 1983) and performed by West at The Old Melbourne Jail (first ever performance there). Re-enacted in it was the hanging of Ned Kelly which, in Mooney’s words, ‘so infuriated the Board of OMJ that they didn’t allow another theatre production at OMJ for two years’. There followed The Cat from Across the Road which premiered at The Athenaeum, Melbourne, in 1987, and The Sinbin which played at The Carlton Courthouse in 2001. Oyston then worked at the Young Vic and at the New Language Theatre in Tokyo and he held workshops at Nihon University taking an opportunity to familiarise himself with Tadashi Suzuki’s work with actors.
Peter Oyston in rehearsal with Japanese actors at the New Language Theatre, Tokyo.
Images courtesy of Dominique Oyston.
In the meantime Oyston had remarried, but the union with ‘a marvellous actress’ Noreen Kershaw gradually fell apart once he returned to Australia for good.
In his spare time, while working as a freelancer, Oyston painted. Three exhibitions in Paris and five exhibitions in London along with those in New Haven (USA), in Tokyo and in Melbourne stand testimony to just how prolific an artist he was. Upon retreating to his beloved Bend of Islands (‘an idyllic place on the upper Yarra River’ in Martineau’s description), he started painting ‘almost full time’.
Seaside, exhibited at Westpac Gallery, Arts Centre Melbourne, 1989.
The water garden created by Oyston at Bend of Islands, Victoria.
Image courtesy of Helen Martineau.
Even though he considered painting his ‘first love’, Oyston also recalled with pride his adaptation of the Stanislavski System that allowed for the creation of a ‘very special outcome for an audience’ within a three-week rehearsal cycle, he said in interviews with this writer and Waites.
An opportunity to apply it, drawing on his entire experience as a theatre maker, including his work at RADA in the role of Associate Director on the Acting Shakespeare Course from 1999 to 2003, presented itself with the offer from Monash University in 2006 to take up the position of Artistic Director (Theatre) of its newly formed Institute (later Academy) of Performing Arts. At its centre was the Honours program, which underwent considerable revision the following year with the establishment of the Graduate Ensemble, an idea remarkably similar to that of a small theatre company Oyston developed at VCA. There was a big difference, though. Rather than three years, Oyston now had just one year to improve and refine the young actors’ skills. ‘To me, that has been an exploration as much as a challenge,’ he said in an interview we held in March 2009, between classes constructed as rehearsals.
To minimise the pressure and create a calm learning environment, Oyston shifted the emphasis from acquiring one skill after another to what he described as ‘a layering of one skill on top of another whereby the first skill pervades into the second, into the third and so on’. Aware of the centrality of Stanislavski in actor training in much of the western world, Oyston tailored the System to a three-week rehearsal schedule by joining up two or three of the methods ‘into one kind of a rehearsal process’. He promptly clarifies: ‘For instance, they’d have three layers going on—the circles of concentration, actions and objectives all in one kind of rehearsal.’2.
The layering of skills continued in movement classes with Fiona Battersby largely structured around Feldenkrais, in bouffant improvisations with Jason Lehane, and in voice lessons with Debra Lawrence/Stephen Costan complemented by singing lessons with Richard Lawton. The language spoken by all skills teachers became remarkably similar soon after the commencement of training to enable everyone in the Ensemble to ‘cross-reference from Feldenkrais to bouffant to voice,’ Oyston explained. ‘I sit on the classes and I interrupt quite often to point out the correlation between the classes so that they can get an idea of one class pervading the next.’
Oyston avoided calling those enrolled in the Graduate Ensemble ‘students’. For him, they were actors. Moving away from the student theatre type of work/mentality was one of his and, indeed, the Academy’s key principles. Oyston likened the application of skills in performance to a stream of consciousness channelled by awareness and the imagination. They came before body, voice and emotions in his evaluation of the five strings of the actor’s instrument.
Maria Garland & James Tresise of the Graduate Ensemble in Journey Through the Mind of Hamlet, adapted and directed by Peter Oyston, Montsalvat, Eltham, April 2009.
Kristina Benton as the Mother with students of the Graduate Ensemble and CDTS undergraduates in Lorca’s Blood Wedding, adapted and directed by Peter Oyston, Alexander Theatre, Monash University, Clayton, October 2009.
Every summer Oyston also directed and taught at RADA, which gave him the opportunity to fine-tune and verify his approach with an entirely different student cohort. This continued until 2010 when his rapidly deteriorating health forced him to retire.
Peter Oyston died peacefully at home after a protracted battle with prostate cancer. On 9 October 2011 a wild storm raged all afternoon over the Kangaroo Grounds Winery. About 300 family members, friends, colleagues and former students gathered at his wake unanimously agreed: it was a fitting ambience for the send-off of a man who had lived his entire life in the stormy world of dramatic art.
RADA Associate Directors Geoff Bullen and Nona Shepphard stress in their obituary for Oyston that he ’was many things: certainly a man of multiple talents, and someone who seemed permanently plugged-in to the poetic currents of life’. Their citation from Oyston’s last letter to friends at RADA brings out the artist, the educator and the man he was.
‘We all knew at the time that we were pursuing not just a job but something passionately special—and that welding is still there in my heart with those I worked with. Fragments of our journey together will always be there even in the space between the words.’
Oyston’s legacy can be illuminated from many more angles and Helen Martineau’s recollection of her visit to The Duke’s in 2015 is characteristic. ‘It’s no longer a full time live theatre venue (no funding). But Peter is a legend and remembered as a shining light’, she says.
Phil Sumner, a founding member of the West Theatre Company, states much the same. ‘Peter was a unique man, a visionary, I believe, who was much respected and much loved by the many he mentored and whose lives he changed.’
Martineau’s personal observation offers a perfect summary.
‘Students and young performers have always been fired by Peter’s charismatic inspiration and vision.
‘Yet in some ways his most enduring impact has been in bringing theatre to communities as a means of directly exploring the issues people face in their communities and families—by actively involving them. It’s taken for granted and is commonplace now but when Peter brought this way of working to the VCA it was revolutionary.’
- Fraser’s play was in 1988 adapted for television by Ray Mooney. Scheduled to be screened on the ABC as part of the six-part Shorts season of Australian drama, it was scrapped last minute because, in Mooney’s recollection, ‘it was due to show one week after the Queen Street Massacre and the ABC thought it was too violent for the moment’ (Personal Communication, 2019). Director Peter Oyston is cited in the Age as saying: ‘The film has integrity. It is spine-chillingly powerful in that it reveals the psychological games and physical violence some clients subject some prostitutes to in the real world.’ (January 7, 1988, p. 52)
- The following DVDs showcasing Oyston’s actor/director training methods are available from Contemporary Arts Media: ‘How to use the Stanislavski System’; ‘Beyond Stanislavski’; ‘How to Audition’; and ‘To Touch Paradise with Peter Oyston’. Available in Trove and at www.artfilms.com.au/Detail.aspx?ItemID=4573
Anon, ‘Oyston resigns from Playbox Theatre’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic), 17 November 1988, p. 14
Anon, ‘Remembering a theatre great’, Monash University, 12 October 2011, www.monash.edu.au/news/show/remembering-a-theatre-great (accessed 18 March 2019)
Australian Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne, https://collections.artscentremelbourne.com.au
Geoff Bullen & Nona Shepphard, ‘Obituaries: Peter Oyston dies, aged 73, at his home in Australia on 9 October 2011’, www.rada.ac.uk/alumni/obituaries/peter-oyston (accessed 27 July 2012)
Murray Copland (editor), Playbox at the CUB Malthouse: a pictorial history, The Playbox Theatre, Centre of Monash University, 1996.
Peter Fitzpatrick, The Two Frank Thrings, Monash University Publishing, Clayton, Vic, 2012
Peter Fitzpatrick, Stephen Sewell: the playwright as revolutionary, Currency Press, Paddington, NSW, 1991
Flying Fruit Fly Circus: History, https://fruitflycircus.com.au/meet/history
Margaret Geddes, ‘The emerging Company 78’. The Age (Melbourne, Vic), October 14, 1978, p. 25
Handspan Theatre, www.handspantheatre.com.au (accessed 18 March 2019)
Philippa Hawker, ‘My Melbourne: the retiring Dean of the School of Drama, Victorian College of the Arts, Peter Oyston, talks to Philippa Hawker’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic), 18 June 1982, p. 5
Helen Martineau, On the Inside: an intimate portrait of Sheila Florance, Australian Scholarly Publishing, North Melbourne, 2005
Helen Martineau, ‘Obituaries: Expressive artist instilled potency in drama students’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic), 19 October 2011, p. 20
Meme McDonald. ‘You have my heart’, Griffith Review 44: Cultural Solutions, April 2014, https://griffithreview.com/articles/you-have-my-heart/ (accessed 3 April 2019)
Geoffrey Milne, Theatre Australia (Un)limited: Australian theatre since the 1950s, Rodopi, Amsterdam & New York, 2004
Ray Mooney, Black Rabbit, Currency Press Pty Ltd in association with the State Theatre Company of South Australia, Paddington, NSW, 1988
Jasna Novaković, Interview with Peter John Oyston, Normanby House, Monash University Clayton Campus, 24 March 2009
Jasna Novaković, Interview 2 with Peter John Oyston, South Melbourne, 12 July 2010
Hannie Rayson, Hello, Beautiful: scenes from a life, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2015
Michael Shmith, ‘Four new plays to star at Playbox’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic), 16 June 1988, p. 14
James Waites, Interview with Peter John Oyston for the Oral History and Folklore Collection at the National Library of Australia, Canberra, 9 October 2009, https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-219135347/listen (accessed 18 March 2019)
Raelene Wilson, ‘Bend of Islands director Peter Oyston takes curtain call’, Diamond Valley Leader (Victoria, Australia), 21 October 2011, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/oyston-peter-15767 (accessed 18 March 2019)