Townsville seems to be in the midst of a screen-to-stage blitz. Earlier this year, we saw the stage version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest*, in the coming months we’ll see The Graduate** as a play and Strictly Ballroom as a musical, and next year will bring Musical versions of both Kinky Boots and Shrek to town.
While many people would have seen the film versions of those stories being adapted to musicals, few would have seen – though are probably vaguely familiar with – the iconic films tied to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Graduate. But, by happy accident, Townsville Classic Films’ 2018 program has matched beautifully with that of Townsville Little Theatre (TLT). The group, run by Mark Enders, screened One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in February, ahead of TLT’s July production, and will screen The Graduate this Sunday, before it is performed at The Courthouse Theatre on 12-15 September.
Mark said he’d chosen The Graduate for this weekend’s screening because it’s one of his personal favourites.
“It’s a film I assumed a lot of people perhaps haven’t seen,” said Mark. “In some ways it’s a bit of a black comedy without being particularly black. It certainly pushed some of those social boundaries of the times: it’s quite a dilemma, coming out of university being an early 20-something and being sexually-active or sexually-interested and having interest come from lots of different areas.”
The story follows young Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) as he returns home from college, struggling to find a sense of meaning and identity in the consumer-driven world of the mid-60s. Perhaps out of sheer boredom, Benjamin finds himself in an illicit affair with his parents’ friend, Mrs Robinson (Anne Bancroft), before falling for her daughter Elaine (Katherine Ross). Naturally, Benjamin encounters some difficulties.
“I love its dry, deadpan sort of delivery,” Mark said. “Dustin Hoffman’s a sort of disinterested character; he can’t motivate himself to get off the li-lo in the pool, he can’t be bothered to rebuff Mrs Robinson’s sexual approaches and he can’t be bothered to date her daughter. Eventually he wakes up to himself a little bit and [spoiler redacted].
“I like Katherine Ross, too. She wasn’t in a lot of films, but at that period in the late 60s and into the 70s there were a few she was really, really great in.”
Mark said as a film buff, it was interesting to see how iconic films translate to the stage.
“If you speak to someone who’s seen a film after reading a book, or vice versa; or seen the film after seeing the play or vice versa; they’ll always tend to draw comparisons. It’s impossible not to,” said Mark.
“I guess the difficulty of putting something on the stage is you can’t have multiple, multiple locations like you can with a film. There’s certainly scenes in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest that I love, like when they go fishing, and that was something they probably couldn’t put in the play. But with The Graduate, there’s a lot of bedroom scenes! And lots of domestic scenes. That’s going to be challenging, I don’t know how you would do it.”
While cinematography is one of the things the screen-adaptation of The Graduate was most lauded for, Mark wasn’t concerned about how iconic shots – like Benjamin floating in the pool, Mrs Robinson pulling on her stockings, or Benjamin and Elaine sitting at the back of the bus – could be replicated on stage.
“They’re different art forms, he said. “There’s some things you can do very differently on the page than you can on the screen or the stage, and I guess if you’re being true to that particular art form, then you should actually play to those strengths; you shouldn’t necessarily try and replicate the strengths of a film.
“I would really encourage people to see both: whether they see the film with us, or whether they catch it online or DVD or somewhere else; and also then go along to see the stage play as well.”
See Townsville Classic Films’ screening of The Graduate at Cafe Nova on 26 August 2018. For dinner & movie bookings, contact Cafe Nova on 4772 2898.
Catch Townsville Little Theatre’s stage adaptation at The Courthouse Theatre, 12-15 September 2018. Click here for tickets
*Technically this was a book-to-stage-to-screen evolution, though very few people would be aware the play exists.
** This was also a novel first, adapted to film in 1967 and premiering on stage in 2000.