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From page to stage: Boy Swallows Universe sell-out on cards as sales begin


The fastest selling Australian debut novel in history, Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe has been adapted for QPAC’s Playhouse theatre, with tickets going on sale next Tuesday.

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The play, adapted by Tim McGarry and directed by Sam Strong, will debut at QPAC’s Playhouse theatre in August for its world premiere and is expected to be a sell-out production.

The award-winning debut novel was written in 2019 by Trent Dalton, an acclaimed Brisbane journalist, and has been adapted for the stage to bring Eli’s story to theatregoers.

Dalton’s semi-autobiographical novel sketches the coming of age story of Eli Bell, who navigates the messiness of adolescence in the outer suburbs of Brisbane in the 1980s, from a backdrop of drug abuse, violence, and chaos.

Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said that Queensland audiences would be the first to witness the stage version.

“Trent Dalton’s tale of growing up in Brisbane took the world by storm and there is great anticipation to see this local story on stage,” Enoch said.

The production is presented by Queensland Theatre as part of Brisbane Festival’s 2021 programming, and marks a return for Brisbane Festival after the turbulence of 2020.

“Brisbane Festival remains steadfast in its commitment to developing brand-new theatre work. Despite the production setbacks from last year’s COVID restrictions, this boldly Brisbane story has risen from adversity, much like Eli Bell, to open the Festival with its stage debut,” Brisbane Festival Artistic Director Louise Bezzina said. 

Eli Bell will be played by Brisbane-born actor Joe Klocek, who was named the Casting Guild of Australia’s Rising Star in 2019.

The production follows Eli Bell in the throes of surviving a working-class life besieged by chaos and crime, ultimately attempting to break into Boggo Road Gaol to rescue his imprisoned mother, Frances.

“There is magic in this play. The magic created by extraordinary theatre talent and unlimited imagination. Everyone in the country should be here to see the way Trent Dalton’s vision will leap off the page and become not only a great night in the theatre but an emblem of the power of theatre to travel across time and space,” said Lee Lewis, Artistic Director of Queensland Theatre.

“We will remember what it was to be young in the ‘80s and be reminded that the future is always ours to make.”

On April 22, Queensland Theatre is live streaming an in-conversation event between author Dalton, playwright McGarry and actor/writer Ngoc Phan to uncover the process behind adapting Boy Swallows Universe into a stage play, hosted by Kelly Higgins-Devine at the Bille Brown Theatre.

Tickets for Boy Swallows Universe go on sale Tuesday 26 April. The production opens at QPAC’s Playhouse on 30 August and will run until 18 September. For more information on the production, visit Queensland Theatre’s website.

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