Before it became a film, playwright Kate Mulvany adapted Craig Silvey's 2009 Indie Book of the Year, Jasper Jones, for the stage — and scored a 2015 Nick Enright Prize nomination and four Helpmann nominations in the process. It was one of the hardest tickets in Sydney and Melbourne when it graced those state's stages, and now it's coming to Brisbane for a limited run.
It's Western Australia in the 1960s. Charlie Bucktin is a clever 14-year-old whose ambition is writing The Great Australian Novel. But he's faced with a moral dilemma when Jasper Jones, an Indigenous boy who serves as the town's scapegoat, turns up at the window asking for help.
Jasper has unwittingly come across a crime scene. But he's too scared to tell anyone, because he knows he'll cop the blame, without question or fair trial. So he asks Charlie for help in solving the mystery. In the suspenseful story that develops, Jasper Jones explores race relations, the Vietnam War and small-town Australian culture, alongside teenage friendships, word play and the complexities of growing up.
Mulvany deftly adapts Silvey's words for the stage, keeping the right balance of tension and humour. The Queensland Theatre production is directed by Sam Strong, with Shaka Cook playing Jasper Jones and Nicholas Denton in the role of Charles Bucktin.