Queensland Theatre

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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Response to Queensland Theatre’s Twelfth Night

“If music be the food of love, play on!”I remember the first time I heard those words. It wasn’t in high school or university, but in a song from 1987 called Eat The Rich, a song written by the British heavy metal band Motörhead specifically for the film of the same name.

The song was full of double entendres and cheap innuendo. “They say music is the food of love / Let’s see if you’re hungry enough!” were the opening lines, gargled by the late Lemmy Kilmister, whose lyrics deftly trod Spinal Tap’s famous fine line between clever and stupid.

I’m not sure how I have managed to almost entirely avoid Shakespeare, despite a life devoted to words and music. The sum total of my experience was a reading (not a performance) of Hamlet, in year 11. It is, frankly, an embarrassing gap for a writer.

When Queensland Theatre invited me to respond to their production of Twelfth Night, I was intimidated, and my instinctive response was ‘no’. Then I realised I was being offered a challenge and a belated opportunity to engage with something beautiful.

The other selling point was musical: Tim Finn, whose early work as a member of Split Enz had been forever imprinted on my brain, would supply the food of love for the play, composing music for Shakespeare’s old verses as well as a suite of original new songs.… Read more..

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