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How Boy Swallows Universe conquered the small screen - not to mention the (second) best restaurant in Darra

Film & TV

Brisbane’s outer suburbs will soon be on the cultural tourism map once the world watches the Netflix series Boy Swallows Universe – but just make sure you dine at the right restaurant.

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It took Trent Dalton to get me to Darra one Sunday in winter. It’s geographically remote to me but, then again, I’m a guy whose life is lived within a 10km radius of home.

A friend suggested we go for lunch at the Vietnamese restaurant made famous in Dalton’s novel Boy Swallows Universe. I have read the book and seen the play but I didn’t do any research to remind me of the restaurant because our friend seemed to know where we were going.

It was only when we arrived and ordered duck that I realised we had the wrong joint. We should have been at Que Huong Restaurant around the corner.

When we went for a walk after lunch (which was delicious), I recognised Que Huong immediately because it has an upstairs section that was replicated in Queensland Theatre’s excellent Brisbane Festival stage version of Dalton’s best-selling novel.

Never mind, I found Darra rather intriguing.  And, who knows, I might break my 10km rule and go again one day. And we will try the right restaurant next time!

We are probably not the first cultural tourists to visit Darra care of Dalton and I’m sure we will not be the last. That’s because we have the Netflix series Boy Swallows Universe coming soon.

The eight-part miniseries will be available to stream from January 11 with a premiere to be held at Brisbane’s New Farm Cinemas a couple of days earlier. Once people have watched that I’m sure there will eventually be Boy Swallows Universe tours of Brisbane.

I hope I get an invitation to the premiere because I have known Dalton for a couple of decades. We worked together at Brisbane News magazine where I was, for many years, senior writer. He was the new kid who turned out to be a wunderkind.

I’m still trying to get my head around how successful he has been, but nobody deserves it more. Obviously, he is crazy talented and he’s a terrific bloke.

And he has given me some credit – including once publicly at the Byron Writers Festival (I was chuffed) – for giving him some pointers early on in his journalism career.

But I must admit that being somewhat self-involved I was never completely clear about his background. The hard graft of his childhood is laid out in Boy Swallows Universe and it is quite heavily autobiographical. Dalton’s mum reckons it’s more autobiographical than even he admits, which makes the story all the more incredible.

Writers do tend to get jealous of the success of others but that isn’t the case with Dalton. We all just feel so happy for him and his wife Fiona, also a former colleague from Brisbane News days. They are lovely people, suburban parents who seem unchanged by the extraordinary success Dalton’s books have wreaked on their life.

Netflix has already dropped the official trailer for the series (you can watch it on their website or on YouTube).

Mullets rule, as you imagine they would. The story follows the struggles of Eli Bell, a young boy caught up in the demi-monde of Brisbane’s underworld in the 1980s. It’s a story of drugs, dysfunction, jail and ultimately triumph, even though I’m still trying to work it all out.

Sorry, remind me again why my end is a dead blue wren?  Trent, please let me know as soon as you can.

Unless you have been living in Siberia you will know the story. Aussie actor and director Joel Edgerton has been the driving force in bringing it to the small screen as an executive producer.

It was written by John Collee, who also scripted Hotel Mumbai and Master and Commander. Wow.

The cast is incredible and no less a star than Simon Baker plays Robert Bell while Felix Cameron is young Eli, Zac Burgess older Eli, Lee Tiger Halley is Gus Bell, Travis Frimmel (yes, the Vikings guy!) is Lyle Orlik and Phoebe Tonkin is Dalton’s beloved mum Frankie Bell.

I’m looking forward to seeing this take on 1980s Brisbane on the screen.

I moved to Brisbane in the 1980s and have lived in the inner-suburbs ever since. I had no experience of Dalton’s outer-suburban Brisbane until our son started playing cricket and we ventured to far-flung desiccated suburban fields for matches, including places where Dalton lived as a boy.

But we never played cricket at Darra and I had never even been there until that Sunday when we went in search of a little bit of the atmosphere of Boys Swallows Universe. We will go again soon and we will dine at the right restaurant this time.

And I have informed Dalton that I am thinking of doing a book of my own in a similar vein. Working title? Man Swallows Panadol. What do you think?

This article is republished from InReview under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

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