Funny, atmospherically dense, and with an unerring sense for dramatic arc and tension, Kate Mulvany elevates Craig Silvey’s novel Jasper Jones to the stage. Set in a small Western Australian town dominated by summer heat, everyday racism and the not-too-distant murmurings of the Vietnam War, it follows the struggle of the eponymous half-cast hero Jasper. Mulvany draws us into Jasper’s world of persecution, beatings and small freedoms with the same otherworldly, intriguing and compassionate allure and sense of adventure that draws protagonist Charlie Bucktin into Jasper’s story.
This is a very accomplished adaptation, its ease of storytelling belies the complexity of condensing Silvey’s novel into one and a half hours of theatre. Alternatingly funny and dark, humourous and disturbing themes dance, collide and merge under Mulvany’s apt hands, navigating the murky waters of bigotry, abuse and racism without so much as raising a didactic finger. Jasper Jones is irresistibly exciting, unsettling and profoundly moving.