Jasper Jones is currently playing to sell out houses at the Southbank Theatre, The Sumner. Based on a best selling novel, it is hailed as an Australian To Kill a Mockingbird, it is a heart-warming coming-of-age story wrapped in a mystery, it is quintessentially Australian.
Actor Taylor Ferguson shares her Jasper Jones experience:
This play is set in a rural mining town in Western Australia. You can feel the heat and hear the cicadas. An aboriginal boy, Jasper is an outsider. He isn’t accepted by the locals nor is he seen as an innocent man. Which he is. A girl has gone missing and he is blamed for it. This play deals with suicide, racism, secrets, lies and love. The themes are universal, however how the story is told is quintessentially Australian. I grew up in Cairns, FNQ where it’s hot and there are lots of prickles and march flies. There is also casual racism and the highest percentage of suicide. This play is my childhood in so many ways. I was just like Eliza, reading books and dreaming of being in the big smoke. I dreamt of leaving a town that never changes. I also heard a lot of racism and horrible judgement towards indigenous culture which I am left baffled when I still hear it today. This play paints a picture of Australia and what we are still battling. There is also a huge focus on cricket, the comparison of superheroes and the ultimate young love… which we can all relate to and very much enjoy watching.
I play Eliza Wishart. Eliza is a bookish 14 year old girl who has grown up in Corrigan, a small town in WA. Her father is the town President. Eliza’s journey throughout the play is very up and down. She is between two worlds. One of love, happiness and naiveté. Another of secrets, abuse and loneliness. Throughout the play she is falling in love with Charlie Bucktin however is trying to come to terms with the death of her sister. She is a very wise young woman who has had to grow up quickly in her head and holds many secrets close to her heart that could change her life forever.
Lovers of the novel will definitely expect the superhero battle between Charlie and Jeffery. You will also hear ‘sassy time’, ‘CONG’ at the cricket game. You will see Jeffery finally make his debut. Obviously the hanging of Laura was a difficult one to stage however Sam and Anna have done an amazing job at placing this violent image behind a glade of trees… which gives a dark and eerie silhouette of Laura hanging by a rope. The peach stealing scene in the novel is also present on stage. The mannerisms of the kids, the stern attitude from Mrs Bucktin and the bookish nerdy behaviour from Eliza and Charlie are all present within this production. I feel the novel lovers will be extremely satisfied as a lot of the book is on the stage. A LOT. The non-readers will easily follow it and I think will enjoy the ride, if not more, not knowing the ‘who done it’.
There are definitely perks within all mediums. I love that in theatre we get 4 or 5 weeks in a rehearsal space before anyone else sees the production. We get to try everything and fail gloriously. We get to have fun and walk in the characters shoes all day every day. In film we don’t really get that chance. However the intimacy given to you in film and TV and what a camera can capture is pretty amazing. I love all three… a mix of all three throughout a year would be ideal. For me, theatre is like running a marathon. It’s about telling a story through your physicality… your instrument and you don’t stop until the curtain is down. You must be present, listening every night. As I am still learning and only have a few shows under my belt the stage is the perfect place for me right now… I believe it’s where every actor should start.
The roles I find myself drawn to the most would be the quirky, raucous, naughty, rule breaking ones … I find them so fun. Eliza seems very innocent on the outside… and is definitely a lot more innocent than me. That is only because of age; however she is very worldly and full of quirky chinks, which I love.
If you want to see one of the best New Australian Works EVER then you have to see this. Not only is it very touching, it is also extremely funny and a wonderful heartfelt night at the theatre.
Jasper Jones plays till September 10
Jasper Jones is on the 2016 VCE Theatre Studies playlist.