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the Complete Review
the complete review - drama

     

Signal Driver

by
Patrick White


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To purchase Signal Driver



Title: Signal Driver
Author: Patrick White
Genre: Drama
Written: 1982
Length: 50 pages
Availability: Signal Driver - US
Signal Driver - UK
  • A Morality Play for the Times
  • With an Introduction by Neil Armfield
  • First produced 5 March 1982, at the Playhouse, Adelaide, in a production directed by Neil Armfield

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Our Assessment:

B : solid drama, cleverly presented and done

See our review for fuller assessment.




The complete review's Review:

       Signal Driver has only two pairs of characters. There are two "timeless, supernatural beings" -- presented as utter derelicts ("a pair of super deros", White suggests). And there is an earthbound couple: Theo and Ivy Vokes. Fairly plain folk.
       The scene is always the same: a public transport shelter, which serves first as a tram and later as a bus stop. Act I takes place in the 1920s, Act II around 1950, Act III in contemporary times. Behind the shelter the city skyline grows, to suggest the changes.
       The tram or bus stop is a place of escape, but neither Theo nor Ivy can take advantage. Each time opportunity arises -- whenever a tram or bus comes by -- , they fail to signal to the driver, to get him to stop and pick them up. Much of life thus passes them by, as does opportunity, hope, the possibility of something new and different.
       They decide early on: "sentimentality's a dead loss." But they aren't happy with their lives, or with each other. They make gestures of escape, but the gesture never even goes far enough to catch the attention of the drivers that go past.
       They have some success -- Ivy, calling herself Jasmine has some success in the antique trade ("slumming for phoney antiques", Theo describes it). They have children. But it doesn't help. They continue to go back to the shelter, watching the busses go by: "The shelter's about all we got left of our real lives."
       By the end they recognize that: "We never succeeded in escaping." They still make futile gestures, but they have grown old:

THEO:  Not old to each other, Ivy. But to everybody else; old, crazy, dispensable vagrants.
       The supernatural being are commentators and observers, following the failures of the mortals. White uses them effectively -- including as some comic relief to the mundane tragedy of Ivy and Theo.
       Signal Driver is a clever little play. White has a fine sense of drama, and despite there being little action, he does holds one's attention here.

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Links:

Reviews: Patrick White: Other books by Patrick White under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Patrick White (1912-1990), Australian author. Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973. Schooled in England (at Cheltenham, and King's College, Cambridge). His first novel Happy Valley was published in 1939. Worked for R.A.F Intelligence during WWII, after which he returned to Australia.

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