How We Beat the Favourite


Horse-breaker, mounted policeman, pub-fighter, Virgil lover,  member of parliament,  bankrupt:  these are some of the faces of Adam Lindsay Gordon explored in this funny and moving play on the life of Australia's national poet.

Adam Lindsay Gordon was arguably Australia's first national poet, and in 1934 was immortalised by the placing of his bust in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey.  His poem, "The Sick Stockrider", was the forerunner of the hosts of bush ballads that followed from the pens of Banjo Patterson, Henry Lawson, and many others.


In this 50-minute one-person play, we deal with Gordon's life from the time of his exile to Australia in 1853 until his tragic suicide seventeen years later.  Gordon was a womaniser, drinker, poet, and completely enamoured with outdoor sport.  He was one of the finest horsemen ever to live in Australia.  His mad leap over a fence onto the edge of a sheer precipice near the Blue Lake in Mount Gambier is legendary, and is still remembered by a plaque at the spot.


The play opens on Gordon's voyage to Australia.  He paces the deck, lamenting his exile by his father, and cursing his isolation from the thing he holds most dear, a good steeplechaser.  In subsequent scenes, we see Gordon as a horse-breaker, mounted policeman, receiving news of the death of his father, pub-fighter, lover of Virgil, country squire, suitor, jockey, member of parliament, and bankrupt.  The short scenes, a mixture of the funny and moving,  are linked by the pulsing rhythm of "How We Beat The Favourite", Gordon's popular ballad describing one of his beloved steeplechases.


As the play progresses, Gordon's alternating fits of melancholy and euphoria become more extreme.  Following his financial ruin, the rejection of his work by the critics, the death of his baby daughter, and a bad fall from a horse that ends his riding career, he takes his own life with a service rifle behind  Brighton Beach in 1870. He was thirty-six years old.

How We Beat the Favourite was directed by Allen Lyne and starred Rob McPherson in a premiere performance at the Weimar Room, Adelaide in 2002. 

This play is one of the four scripts contained in the Anthology. To discuss performance issues, please email me