When Louis Nowra's Inside the Island received a savage review in the Sydney Morning Herald, Patrick White hand-delivered an outraged letter to the editor in support of the play and its author. When it was not published, White paid for it to run as an advertisement in the newspaper for two weeks. White later cooled to Nowra, as he did with so many others, and would sometimes refer to the playwright as 'Louis Kiama'.
White was probably unaware that Nowra left his degree at La Trobe University over a dispute with his professor concerning his dislike of White's novel The Tree of Man.
|Louis Nowra in Kings Cross with his very clever chihuahua, Coco|
I’ve known Louis for over 25 years. We first met in the rehearsal room of Rex Cramphorn’s premiere production of Louis' The Golden Age for Playbox in 1985. Patrick White greatly admired Rex, one of Australia’s great directing talents, and of course also championed Louis.
Later, in 1995, I directed the premiere production of The Jungle for Sydney Theatre Company, with a fabulous Kate Fitzpatrick, whom Patrick White adored. He wrote his 1977 play Big Toys for her. I soon learned why both Patrick and Louis, and indeed Rex, had been so fond of Kate.
During rehearsals of The Jungle, she was in the throws of an infamous case in the NSW Supreme Court: Kate Fitzpatrick v Charles Waterstreet. She was suing her former lover, the famed barrister who would later become the model for the central character in the TV series Rake. She was claiming about half the value of an Elizabeth Bay flat. There was more: ‘I'll have the Brett Whiteleys, you can have the Tupperware and the Brescia beanbag,’ she offered in court. One of the Whiteleys was the portrait of Patrick White that served as the cover of David Marr’s great biography of White. It was Kate, incidentally, who had organised a lunch so that Whiteley and White could meet. On her return from court, our rehearsal room was fabulously full of Kate’s regaling – sensational stories of her many former lovers including Sam Neill, Jeremy Irons, Timothy Dalton, Eric Clapton, Tom Hughes QC and several famous cricketers, and of her close friendships with Kerry Packer, Sam Shepard, a smitten Jack Nicholson, several High Court judges and, of course, Patrick White.