Young lives cast adrift

MAITLAND actor and director Ann Croger was engrossed when novelist Morris Gleitzman talked about his latest work, Boy Overboard, at a writers conference she attended in the Blue Mountains in 2003.
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DREAMS OF SOCCER: Damon Cousins as Jamal, Grace Sutherland as Bibi in a scene from Boy Overboard.

“He was so passionate about it,” she said.

The book’s central characters are two children, a brother and sister, who are fleeing with their parents from Afghanistan’s terrorists. The children are separated from the parents when they are put on an overcrowded boat illegally headed for Australia.In Afghanistan, they have seen people die when they have stepped on landmines and been threatened by assassins. The voyage is likewise perilous, with pirates attacking the boat and a storm threatening to sink it.

Gleitzman wrote the book because he felt Australian politicians had unfairly criticised the desperate refugees. He had met a refugee family in Perth which had been locked in an Australian detention centre for two years, and had been moved by their story.

The novel was subsequently adapted by playwright Patricia Cornelius into a stage work that has likewise had an emotional response from watchers.

Ann Croger’s theatre company, Upstage Youth Theatre, is presenting Boy Overboard at a four-night Maitland season between November 4 and 12.

“The story is seen through the eyes of a child, Jamal, and he is very optimistic about the future,” she said.

Jamal, 13, and his sister, Bibi, 9, are passionate about soccer, and both want to play the game in Australia, then return to Afghanistan and help form a team that will compete internationally.

Croger said the story begins with a game of soccer, and the audience learns that girls are forbidden to play the game in Afghanistan.

The play has a large and predominantly young cast, with Jamal meeting another passionate soccer player, Omar, in a refugee camp in Pakistan. Omar’s family has disappeared. Yusuf, Jamal’s best friend, has lost a leg when stepping on a landmine, but determinedly continues to be a goalkeeper.

The cast includes Damon Cousins as Jamal, Grace Sutherland as Bibi, Jack Gow and Jess Rose as their parents, and with two pairs of young performers alternating in the main friends’ roles: Olivia Greentree and Aiden StClair, as Yusuf, and Jack O’Brien and Myra Paleologos, as Omar. Ella Fitzpatrick-Barr is a teenage girl who protects the younger children on the boat.

Boy Overboard can be seen at Upstage Studio, 341 High Street, Maitland, on Friday and Saturday at 7.30pm from November 4 to 12. Tickets: $25, student $20, family of four $80. Bookings: [email protected]南京夜网419论坛.