Theatre Review: Jasper Jones

Set in the latter part of 1965 into 1966 Jasper Jones is filled with the adventures of 13 year old Charlie Bucktin after he is visited in the night by Jasper Jones who is the catalyst for Charlie’s journey into adulthood through misadventure after misadventure.


Presented by State Theatre Company in association with Flinders University and Dramatic Women  

Reviewed 20th August 2019

A visit to the town of Corrigan in the State Theatre Company’s adaptation by Kate Mulvaney of the award winning novel Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey, is a bit of an Australian experience. Set in the latter part of 1965 into 1966 it is filled with the adventures of 13 year old Charlie Bucktin after he is visited in the night by Jasper Jones who is the catalyst for Charlie’s journey into adulthood through misadventure after misadventure. The original novel was aimed at an audience of mid to late teens with all sorts of different messages tangled up in a story of intrigue, suspected murder, misplaced loyalty, fierce friendship and the adversity of living in the raw and challenging outback of Western Australia in the mid 1960’s.

Alisa Paterson’s design is epic in proportion and sets the scene beautifully for this true-blue yarn. I don’t want to spoil the story for those who haven’t seen it but it is a tale told with humour, pathos and a great deal of Australian charm.

James Smith as Charlie is the lynch pin of a very effective, charming and moving production. He has imbued his character with all the warmth, humour and liveliness that is the imaginative mind of a 13 year old boy moving through puberty into early manhood, and he moves the production along at a cracking pace from beginning to end. He is a masterful young performer, totally in charge of his world. Elijah Valadian-Wilson gives Jasper Jones just the right amount of edge, and as he grows into his paws as an actor he will develop into a very proficient indigenous performer. His direct and clear performance gave Jasper a really edgy feel, which made us believe he could be very dangerous if he wanted to be.

Roy Phung’s Jeffrey was endearing and very amusing. Poor old Jeffrey is really the butt of everyone’s jokes and we’ve all known a Jeffrey! Could have done with a little more volume and articulation from Jeffrey; I did miss some of the obviously funny dialogue if he was facing away from me, and the volume of Mrs Lu could be turned up a bit, I missed almost all of her lines.  Rachel Burke as Eliza Wishart and Laura Wishart was, as ever, effective in her interpretation of two different sisters challenged by the environment they find themselves trapped in. The circumstances the two young women have to survive make the story challenging and sometimes harrowing to experience. Some of Burke’s lighter moment allow us to form a bond with her, which makes her eventual challenge all the more heartbreaking.

Rory Walker’s versatility is always reliable and his interpretation of the three characters he had to work with show why he is a regular on the theatre stage. His Grandfather was particularly effective and showed Walker’s range and depth and his outback policeman’s Romeo and Juliet line – pure art in its delivery. Emma Beech as Warwick/Mum was an acting stretch that Emma rose to in all her glory. Warick was perfect in his lack of empathy and her interpretation of Charlie’s Mum was solid and very amusing with a nice little sting in its tail.

The book is on the school curriculum and this production will, I have no doubt, be a perfect way for some students to come to grips with the story. I did feel at times that the play as whole flagged a little under the need to make it suitable for an adult audience. Perhaps I am being a little too picky, as I really overall thoroughly enjoyed this latest offering by The State Theatre Company. The sets, costumes, lighting and some sensitive direction by Nescha Jelk make this heart-warming yet challenging story a very good night in the theatre.

This play contains coarse language, adult themes, theatrical weapons, reference to violence and sexual abuse and depictions of suicide that may be triggering to some audience members. Below are some support services as listed in the publicity for those affected by the themes in the production.

Lifeline – 13 1144     Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

Reviewed by Adrian Barnes

Rating out of 5: 4

Venue:  Dunstan Playhouse

Season: 16th August – 7th September 2019

Duration:  Approximately 1 hour 45 minutes

Tickets: $30 – $84.00

Bookings: http://statetheatrecompany.com.au/buy-tickets/

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