Craig Silvey’s ‘Jasper Jones’ is a much loved coming- of -age novel set in 1960’s Australia. It was a successful 2017 movie and the play Jasper Jones was a sellout hit for the Melbourne Theatre Company in 2016. Talk about a triple threat! Now Queensland Theatre has brought this play to Brisbane and She Society were delighted to be invited along to opening night of this modern classic adapted for the stage by playwright and actress Kate Mulvany.
Sam Strong , who was also the director of the Melbourne version, has enticed many of the original cast and crew here to Queensland for this production. Look out for some quintessential Queensland touches!
Charlie Bucktin is a clever and bookish fourteen year old whose life is changed irrevocably when Jasper Jones taps on his window in the dead of night and leads him to the dead body of Laura Wishart. It is the summer holidays of 1965 and Charlie sets out to find her killer knowing that the blame will inevitably fall on her boyfriend Jasper. Jasper Jones is a troubled and rebellious youth from a mixed White- Aboriginal heritage who is an outcast in the straight- laced fictional town of Corrigan, Western Australia.
In every house in sleepy, sweltering Corrigan there are secrets and mysteries.This gothic play broaches topics like racism, incest, infidelity, bullying and police brutality with a deft touch and lightens the dark themes with moments of humour and nostalgia.There is a sweet romance and a true friendship which will make you misty -eyed.The play stands somewhere between Harper Lee’s ‘ To Kill aMockingbird ‘ and the classic movie ‘Stand By Me’.
Queensland Theatre have put their revolving stage to great use in this play and the set and lighting really help to capture the mood. The clever recreation of the dam and Jasper Jones special place also impressed those of us in the audience who had wondered how they would do this. For those of my vintage it was a nostalgia filled night- the music, those brown sandals worn by the boys, the fashion and the way of speaking had me reminiscing long into the night. It conjured a vision of the Australia of my youth, one which I had almost forgotten.
The casting was superb. Many actors were in the original play and were making their debut with Queensland Theatre. There was Nicholas Denton as Charlie Bucktin who my young companion said, ‘ Played the part brilliantly, with just the right level of nerdiness.’ Shaka Cook had you feeling for him and his circumstances as Jasper Jones from beginning to end.
Ian Bliss was a delight as Dad -Wesley Bucktin and the personality and verve of Rachel Gordon shone through as Ruth Bucktin. Her characterisation was wonderful and she lit up the stage in every scene.
I have always been a fan of the optimistic character of Jeffrey Lu and Hoa Xuande did not disappoint in this role. His comedic timing and gentle nature provided relief to the tension at just the right moments. The ethereal Melanie Zanetti was new to the role of Eliza/ Laura and was very believable and mesmerising in this dual role. Hayden Spencer bought some menace and seemed to relish his role as Mad Jack Lionel.
This Queensland Theatre production of Jasper Jones will appeal to people of all ages.The young will feel the angst and emotions of the characters portrayed, some will look back with nostalgia and it will make everyone think about society, social issues and the changes from the past still affecting us today. It’s a cracking good story and I heard one theatre goer say, “ That’s what we need- more good crime stories like that on stage.” For a wonderful night out depicting a modern Australian classic look no further than Jasper Jones. This masterful play is now playing at the Playhouse, QPAC until 18 August. It truly deserved the standing ovation it received from the impressed opening night audience.