Bringing Boy Swallows Universe to the stage

On the face of it, bringing Trent Dalton’s 471-page debut novel Boy Swallows Universe to the stage sounds impossible. The Brisbane-based author summarises his initial response to playwright Tim McGarry – who approached him with a proposal to adapt his massive manuscript before the book had even been published – as “good luck to you, mate”.

At close to three hours, broken by a short intermission, Boy Swallows Universe is a big night out. That’s nothing, though: the first of McGarry’s 10 drafts took a full six and a half hours to be read out by the cast. “It was a very difficult novel to unpick; every moment is interdependent on the other,” McGarry says.

But at a preview performance this week at QPAC, time (to borrow a phrase from the final scene) does not exist. Led by a bravura performance by Joe Klocek as Eli Bell, who is on stage and narrating almost throughout, the stage adaptation is taut and tense. It was received with a standing ovation.

Boy Swallows Universe was a publishing phenomenon rarely seen in Australian literary fiction. A year ago, HarperCollins announced the book had sold more than half a million copies since its publication in July 2018.… Read more..

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By Joh, it could be Trump!

For Queenslanders of a certain age, there is so much about the rise of Donald Trump that seems eerily familiar. For 19 years, his prehistoric ancestor ruled the swamps of Australia’s deep north – a hillbilly dictator who beat up protesters and confounded the media with complete gibberish while a dark web of corruption flourished behind him. Thankfully, Joh Bjelke-Petersen didn’t have the codes, or a Twitter account.

At the time, the sheer lunacy of Bjelke-Petersen seemed beyond the reach of satirists, despite there being numerous comedic imitators of Joh’s folksy, stammering idiosyncrasies. These days, it’s getting harder to convince people who weren’t there that certain things actually happened, such as police being sent to university campuses on pre-dawn raids to rip condom-vending machines from toilet walls in 1987.

When he was eventually rolled by his own party, Joh locked himself in his parliamentary annex for days, phoning Buckingham Palace seeking Her Majesty’s intervention. If that’s not enough, imagine the corpulent figure of Russ Hinze – the minister for everything – bent at the waist, peering through the keyhole with tears streaming down his cheeks, beseeching his master: “Joh! Maaaate! It’s over!”

For many of those who lived through it, though, Bjelke-Petersen’s iron-fisted rule was no laughing matter.… Read more..

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