After a successful premiere season winning acclaim from audiences and critics, the stage adaptation of ‘Jasper Jones’ returns by popular demand to Belvoir St Theatre.
‘Jasper Jones’ is a special story. Written by Craig Silvey, the novel tells of 13-year-old Charlie Bucktin’s summer in 1965 in the rural mining town of Corrigan, Western Australia.
Beginning with the death of a girl, who also happens to be the girlfriend of the mixed-race title character, ‘Jasper Jones’ tackles complex themes, including sport, sexism, suicide, and racism. Since its release, ‘Jasper Jones’ has received many awards not just for the original novel, but also for its acclaimed stage adaptation, which will be returning to Belvoir St Theatre due to popular demand.
Actress Matilda Ridgway was aware of the novel before she won the roles of sisters Eliza and Laura Wishart. However, she realised she needed to read it quickly.
“My dad and I are pretty avid readers,” Matilda explains. “I had actually gifted him the book for his birthday before I had been asked about the play. When I got the call about being available to do it, I went, ‘Oh! Okay, I’ve got to get the book off my dad!’”
Image © Brett Boardman
While Matilda is playing both Wishart sisters, the two are very different. Laura, the older sister, has very few moments on stage, but her death at the beginning of the play weighs heavily in the background.
Younger sister Eliza, however, is something else altogether, with Matilda excited to give her more dimensions.
“Eliza is bookish, and her older sister has just passed away at a really young age, which is a a real whirlwind for a 14-year-old girl. But, I also like how much of a superhero she is. She has a real intelligence, and she’s a survivor.”
Matilda is a seasoned actress, having completed her training with the now-defunct Ensemble Studio. Since then, she has trained in New York, studied clown in France, and starred in ‘The Guest’, a short-film that was nominated for a Cannes Palm D’Or Award. Acting is something she has wanted to do since she was young, but she never thought she’d be in her 30s playing a 14-year-old, a challenge she delights in.
Image © Brett Boardman
“It was a choice [playwright] Kate Mulvany made. Because it’s a play looking back on the past, it’s dealing with a nostalgia that is clearly apparent in the whole play, from the beautiful setting, the costume design, and the amazing sets. It’s about saying, ‘this is us,’ as in you can’t remove yourself from these children. We’ve all been these children, and we still are these children in a way. It brings the audience closer to the play in a weird way.”
Matilda is excited to be taking to the stage once again, especially for a play that has received so much adoration.
“To be able to bring ‘Jasper Jones’ back to the stage is such a pleasure,” Matilda says. “The response was exceptional. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a play where the response has been so overwhelming. Every second night we’d have a standing ovation. Before the show opened it had sold out, so you’d have people line up for up to an hour to buy standing room tickets. It’s a three hour show; it’s a big commitment. When you see people standing for so long, you know you’re part of something that’s truly special.”