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Review - Jasper Jones: had the audience bubbling with laughter

Nicholas Denton as Charlie and Shaka Cook in the title role. Photo by David Kelly.

Jasper Jones

Adapted by Kate Mulvany

Based on the novel by Craig Silvey

Directed by Sam Strong

Queensland Theatre

QPAC Playhouse

South Bank

Season runs until August 18. Tickets Bookings:

Jasper Jones is not your typical drama. It is presented by Queensland Theatre as a restaging of the Melbourne Theatre Company production and based on the smash hit novel by Craig Silvey.

This rollercoaster of a plot which brings to life the stories of a 1960’s sleepy Western Australian town, Corrigin, packs a veritable punch. While I was unfamiliar with the original novel, the anticipation of seeing a new story coursed through me as I mingled within the auditorium of the QPAC Playhouse.

As the opening scenes played out, I became engrossed in a story cum comedy drama with smatterings of coming of age themes, nestled at the heart of a murder mystery. Sounds complex? It certainly is. But with that complexity comes a richness of character that makes it hard to deny this is a timeless story.

Hailed as something of an Australian version of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, it centres around a half-indigenous teen, Jasper Jones. Spun expertly into life by Shaka Cook, Jasper reveals he has made a gruesome discovery in a place only he frequents; the hanged body of a young woman. With the help of bookish and awkward Charlie Bucktin, (Nicholas Denton), Jasper tries to get to the bottom of just who killed Laura Wishart.

Along the way the audience meets a myriad of colourful and classic characters. From Charlie’s jaded and out of love parents Mr and Mrs Bucktin (Ian Bliss and Rachel Gordon) to Charlie’s goofy and cricket-mad best friend, Jeffery, an immigrant with Vietnamese heritage (Hoa Xuande) to the mysterious and brooding “Mad” Jack Lionel with a dark and secret past (Hayden Spencer) to the beautiful and sorrowful Eliza Wishart, Charlie’s chief love interest (Melanie Zanetti).

Each of these characters seem completely unaware of the tragedy that has unfolded under their noses and that’s what makes the suspense so potent and thrilling. What I didn’t expect with Jasper Jones was just how funny it was going to be.

Unexpected moments of hilarity peppered the plot with razor sharp dialogue and amusing delivery that had the audience bubbling with laughter more often than not, and with a heart-warming ending, Jasper Jones ended on a bitter-sweet note that hit all the right places.

What I found most enjoyable about this production was the integrity it held with keeping the characters alive and moving with lighting fast energy throughout the long two and a half hour show. I didn’t even notice the time passing, which is always the mark of a good show.

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