The Removalist is a 1971 play written by Australian David Williamson. It was made into a movie in 1975 and has been produced widely.
Removalist is a term that applies to someone who assists in the moving of furniture from a home, but of course its use in the play has a deeper meaning than that. The play is about abuse in different forms. It tackles physical abuse and the abuse of power of some authorities and the lack of involvement of most people.
The play is set in Melbourne and opens with two of the main characters. These are the police officers Ross and Simmonds. Unlike the idealized portrayal of policemen in TV shows, these two are shown with all their flaws which are all very human. Then two female characters are introduced which like the first two are not perfect. One is a feminist rigid in her views and the other is a nervous wreck, a victim of abuse. They are filing a complaint against the husband of one of them. They also seek some assistance from the officers to get some furniture removed from the place to which the officers agree.
At the house the husband arrives before the furniture can be removed and is then arrested. Towards the end of the play the husband is killed by the two officers and the play closes with their attempts to cover up their physical abuse which caused the death of the victim.
A Bleak Outlook
The play casts a rather bleak outlook on human behaviour and Australian society. It chooses to tackle realities, which most people would rather choose to ignore. Things like physical abuse and police brutality are realities that we have in the world, but we would want to ignore it as much as we can. Sometimes we are indifferent to it even when we come face to face with it.
That’s one of the things that the play tries to address, the indifference that most people have at the things that are happening around us. This is symbolized by the removalist in the play, who tries to do his job in the middle of the disturbance and the turbulence that is happening around him. He represents those who choose to do nothing about the bad things that are happening right in front of their faces. They are those who sit and just wait for things to happen and are mere spectators.
Though set in 1070s Melbourne this is a play about human society everywhere.