Tim – a love story for the ages

Tim – a love story for the ages

Colleen McCullough’s sensational 1974 novel, Tim, has been adapted for the stage by the highly respected multi-talented, Tim McGarry, whose recent adaptation of Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe for QPAC received feverish acclaim. Young, emergent actor Ben Goss will make his mainstage debut in the title role.

When Tim was first published in 1974, it was both a popular and critical success, despite its controversial subject matter. Tim is the story of a handsome 25-year-old  man with an undefined intellectual disability. Because of it, he suffers bullying from workmates and friends, but also molly-coddling from well-intentioned family.

Colleen McCullough

Tim meets Mary, a successful businesswoman in her 50s. They form a bond which develops into something more intense and sparks scandal and suspicion.

Goss came to the story fresh, never having previously known about the book or the film adaptation made in 1979 starring Mel Gibson. He has, of course, now read the book – and loves it – but has decided not to see the film.

McGarry’s adaptation sees a few modifications to the story.

“The main difference is it takes it into the contemporary age, there’s some politics around the NDIS,” explains Goss.

Goss has cerebral palsy and so feels he can identify, to a certain degree, with his character, but is also mindful of the unique distinctions of mental disability.

Ben Goss. Image: supplied

“I think our disabilities are quite different, so alongside that instant connection there is a lot of research — respectful research — to really try and get disability right because it is a kind of sensitive subject. So, we’re really working hard to do a good job with it,” says Goss.

Tim’s disability is never fully described; McGarry deliberately left it vague, open to interpretation. However, there are some particular elements that stand out, explains Goss:

“Something Tim specifically suffers with is he gets noise-sick, he struggles in crowds and he struggles with noise, so that’s a big part of the character that we’re developing now.”

Tim has some special gifts, too.

Writer, Tim McGarry. Image: supplied

“He’s very emotionally savvy, I think, and very tuned in to the natural world. He’s very present in his own body, a very physical person.”

The relationship at the centre of the story involves not only a significant age gap but also, arguably, a power gap in terms of where the characters are in their lives and their abilities to deal with various situations. Mary is played by esteemed veteran actor, Jeanette Cronin, whose very presence accentuates Goss’s innocence.

Jeanette Cronin. Image: supplied

“[Tim] just enjoys her so much, and doesn’t really kind of get the concept of the scandal of it,” says Goss about the relationship. “So he’s just really pleasant, he really enjoys her company, he loves being with her and over the course of the play he just falls head over heels in love and really it’s for Jeanette [Mary] to deal with the ramifications of their being together.”

Alongside Cronin is a venerable cast which includes Valerie Bader, Akkshey Caplash,  Andrew McFarlane and Julia Robertson.

“There’s a lot of experience in the room, some very experienced Sydney thesps, so I’m having a ball with them, they’re fabulous,” says Goss.

As for the production design, Goss isn’t giving anything away.

“I can tell you it looks beautiful…”

Tim plays theatres around NSW from end of July, including:

28 – 30 July, Glen Street Theatre, Belrose

11 & 12 August, The Joan, Penrith

16 – 19 August, Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, Wollongong

30 August – 2 September, Riverside Theatre, Parramatta 

www.christinedunstan.com.au/tim/

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