The Unknown Man


‘Victims of assault. Accidental deaths. Shark victims. Most of the bodies that turn up on our beaches don’t turn up in one piece. Not sitting. Not looking out to sea. A half-smoked cigarette on the lips.’

THE UNKNOWN MAN (On Somerton Beach) is based on a real unsolved death case from sleepy South Australia, 1948; the extensive reports and academic research into the case, and the uncrackable code at the heart of the mystery; and includes text from the playwright’s interviews with real former secret service operatives.

A dead man leans against a sea wall. It’s December 1948 and the death is not just suspicious, it’s mysterious. The only clues are a battered copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, some scrawled code, a local nurse’s phone number and a disguised packet of US cigarettes. Is he American? Is he Russian? With chilly lines being drawn between the free world and the red terror could this be one of the cold war’s first antipodean casualties? He’ll tell you him yourself. It’s three days earlier, the very much not-yet-dead man is making his way to the beach, and you’re invited.

State Secrets. Personality Problems. Corpses.

This show is suitable for adults.

Original Commission + Playreading

by Traverse Theatre,
as a part of Dream Plays Series
August, 2012
Director/Dramaturg: David Greig
Cast: Adriane Daff, Marcus McKenzie,

Created and Awarded

Tobias Manderson-Galvin
as part of Master of Writing for Performance
Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne University, 2012
Dramaturg: Raimondo Cortese (Ranters Theatre)
Reading Cast: Nicola Gunn, Kerith Manderson-Galvin, Hayley Bracken, Pete Reid, and Tobias Manderson-Galvin.
Reading Venue: Grant Street Theatre


Bundanon Artist Trust
Two-week artist residency
Aug, 2014
Dramaturg: Kerith Manderson-Galvin
Partners: Bundanon Trust


RE Ross Trust Playwrights Development Award

Development + Playreading

RE Ross Trust
Dec, 2014
Director: Tobias Manderson-Galvin
Cast: Marcus McKenzie, Kerith Manderson-Galvin, Liam Seymour, Georgina Capper, and Nicholas Bell
Venue: 45downstairs
Partner: 45downstairs, RE Ross Trust, Creative Victoria

Development + Playreading

Melbourne Theatre Company
for MTC’s Cybec Electric + SummerSault Festival
13-14 Feb, 2015, READ MORE
Dramaturg: Chris Mead
Director: Sarah Giles
Cast: Tom Budge, Jack Charles, Mark Coles-Smith, Julie Forsyth, Margaret Harvey, and Alex Menglet as the Unknown Man
Venue: Southbank Theatre, and VCA Southbank Garden
Partners: Cybec Electric was only possible due to the support of Roger Riordan AM and The Cybec Foundation.

Writer Tobias Manderson-Galvin
Tobias Manderson-Galvin + Dr Tom Payne
Stage Dramaturg tbc
Performed by
 Dr Tom Payne + Tobias Manderson-Galvin + Kerith Manderson-Galvin

Visual Designer Wilson Liew
Sound Designer Jules Pascoe
Creative Producer Alex Ben-Mayor
Executive Producers
 MKA + Doppelgangster

Additional Dramaturgy
The performance text has benefited from dramaturgy from Raimondo Cortese, Chris Mead, Kerith Manderson-Galvin, and David Greig.


“Tantalisingly playful.”
– Herald Scotland

“This is intriguing chaos. A spirited, surreal and occasionally bizarre exploration of post-war Australian society… the start of a fascinating piece of theatre.”
– RE Ross Judges Report

“A wild ride.”
– Geordie Brookman (Artistic Director – State Theatre Company of South Australia)

“What he (Manderson-Galvin) is doing is extroadinary.”
– Raimondo Cortese (playwright, Founder – Ranters Theatre)

“It’s great. Fucking brilliant. Aching, desolate and odd.”
– David Greig (playwright, Artistic Director – Royal Lyceum)

“I’m a big fan of this play. It’s innovative, fast paced and formally adventurous.”
– Iain Sinclair (Associate Director – Playwriting Australia)



Development Partners
Image Credits

Image: Wilson Liew;
Featured: T Manderson-Galvin + T Payne