For Tommy Murphy, it’s Peter Nicholson’s iconic ‘Rubbery Figures’ – satirical puppets of politicians that graced the televisions of a bygone era – that come to mind when thinking about the Packer family, the subject of his new play for Belvoir, Packer & Sons.
“I don’t recall if there was a Kerry Packer one, but as a kid in the 80s and 90s all those powerful public figures seemed to blend with their rubbery counterparts,” he says. “Grotesque forms. Funny. Frightening. Archetypal. Kerry is caught in my mind as that. From Sir Frank to James you have about a century of unrivalled influence in Australia, particularly Sydney. Politicians have quaked and bent for the Packers. Our media diet has been shaped by them. Like big bumbling gods, they are endlessly fascinating.”
Such characters are perfect for the stage, Murphy says. “Their efforts and their faults are king sized. And, like watching the monarchs of a state, we’ve rocked up to see the human story: their attempts for happiness, their flaws and the damage they cause to each other.”
Murphy’s research led to several revelations. “I discovered Frank called his sons ‘Dumb-Dumb’ and...