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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