The multi-award winning Australian novel by Craig Silvey is a modern classic on the issues of racial tolerance.
Sometimes called Australia’s To Kill A Mockingbird, the multi-award-winning 2009 novel Jasper Jones is set to have a moment in 2016 with two productions of Kate Mulvany’s 2014 stage adaptation as well as a film release later this year.
Written by West Australian author Craig Silvey, the coming-of-age tale is set in the fictional rural town of Corrigan in 1965. 14-year-old Charlie Bucktin is caught up in a world of racism and family secrets as he tries to help his friend Jasper, an indigenous boy blamed for the town’s trouble. One hot summer’s night when Jasper discovers a terrible crime, he turns to Charlie for help.
“I think all of us can relate to that sort of loss of innocence, that moment in life where you start to see that the world is a little more grey, rather than the black and white that you thought it was growing up,” said Sydney director Anne-Louis Sarks in an interview with ABC. The Kate Mulvany adaptation, which is currently showing at Belvoir St Theatre before being staged by MTC in August, was first performed in 2014 by Perth-based theatre company Barking Gecko. “I come from country Western Australia, I grew up in a town very similar to Corrigan,” says Mulvany, who’s also playing the role of Charlie’s mum in the Belvoir production. “Craig’s characters and the actual narrative are so strong and energised and driven and imaginative that it seems right to be on the stage.”
When it opens in Melbourne, Mulvany’s play will have a completely new interpretation directed by Sam Strong, but Aboriginal actor Guy Simon is portraying Jasper Jones in both the Belvoir and MTC productions. To bring the role to life he has drawn on the experiences of relatives. “I’ve got all these uncles and I’ve got my father, and I can ask them how they were treated back then and how I can put their experiences into this play,” he says. “Hopefully I do them justice, and give them a voice when back then they had no voice.”
A star-studded feature film adaptation featuring Toni Collette and Hugo Weaving is currently in post-production and due for release later this year. Director Rachel Perkins, (Bran Nue Day and Radiance) is working with Animal Kingdom producer Vincent Sheehan to bring the story to the big screen. Levi Miller, who recently appeared on screen as the boy Peter in Pan, will play Charlie, and Aaron McGrath (Around the Block, Redfern Now and Glitch) will appear as Jasper Jones. Shaun Grant (Snowtown) has written the screenplay along with author Craig Silvey.
The Belvoir production of Jasper Jones in Sydney runs until February 7, and the Melbourne Theatre Company’s version is playing from August 1 – September 9. The feature film is due for release in late 2016.