It is difficult not to be irritated by the preoccupations of the funded state theatre companies. They seem to be obsessed with plays about gender, gay or trans, with race and with ‘colour-blind’ casting and what could be called gender-bending casting with women playing men and vice versa. Some of it works sometimes. Years ago at the National in London, we saw Fiona Shaw as Richard II: unforgettable. But it is a trick now being attempted too often with performers who are just too ordinary.
The Queensland Theatre Company is not free from this criticism but this year’s season includes a really interesting proposition. A stage adaptation of the novel by Trent Dalton, Boy Swallows Universe. It is the most successful novel by an Australian writer in years. The last figure I heard was that it had sold over half a million copies in Australia; it is also selling all around the world. In the television advertisements for Audible Books, Boy Swallows Universe is the lead title; they don’t do that for nothing.
It’s appropriate that QTC are undertaking this project as Trent Dalton lives in Brisbane, his hometown, with his wife and two children. He is a long form journalist who has won numerous awards. Currently with the Weekend Australian, he publishes beautiful, compelling pieces, many about everyday life. The stage adaptation is by Tim McGarry, directed by Sam Strong.
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