Image: TIM Jeanette Cronin & Ben Goss. Photo: Bruno Garcia

Colleen McCullough’s 1974 novel Tim, about a romance that challenges conservative social mores, has been brought to the stage in a thoughtful adaptation by Tim McGarry. The one-act play debuted to a warm reception at Glen St Theatre, portending a successful multi-venue season to follow.

Tim Melville (Ben Goss) is a handsome man in his mid-twenties who has an unspecified mental disability. It doesn’t incapacitate him, it renders him very sensitive and reactive to his environment, and too naive to accommodate social prejudices. Tim’s father, Ron (Andrew McFarlane), is a happy-go-lucky bloke who likes an occasional flutter on the races, enjoys simplicity, and wants the best for his kids.

TIM Ben Goss Photo: Bruno Garcia

Tim’s mother, Joy (Valerie Bader) has a strong maternal concern for her son’s wellbeing, and very little enthusiastic for her daughter’s impending move to Melbourne with her artist boyfriend.

Said daughter, Dee (Julia Robertson), is very close to her brother and most intrusive and vocal about matters affecting him. Her partner, Raj (Akkshey Caplash) supports Dee’s views, aware that he will never be able to ingratiate himself with her parents.

TIM Julia Robertson & Ben Goss Photo: Bruno Garcia


TIM Akkshey Caplash, Valerie Bader & Ben Goss Photo: Bruno Garcia

Tim works as a gardener, exploited and bullied by his employer and co-workers. Mary Horton (Jeanette Cronin) a middle-aged woman who lives alone, engages Tim on a regular basis to do odd jobs around her home. They develop a friendship which intensifies into something stronger.

Tim’s family vehemently disapprove, conspiring, arguing, instigating actions supposedly in his interest without his consultation or consent.

TIM Cast Photo: Bruno Garcia

McGarry has updated the story so that it includes references to issues with the current health system. He also addresses the still very present adverse social attitudes around mental disability, relationships that challenge orthodoxy, and concepts of family and who, if anyone, has the authority to act on someone’s behalf.

The set by James Browne is simple, switching easily from a lounge room to the front yards of two neighbouring houses, to a variety of other incidental locations. At the centre of the stage is a revolving door that is used to help effect scene changes as well as act as a semi-transparent screen in certain situations.

TIM Valerie Bader & Andrew McFarlane Photo: Bruno Garcia

There is a soundtrack that includes familiar classical pieces and original music by Max Lambert that has a nostalgic filmic quality.

Darren Yap directs with evenness and moderation, never allowing it to get too sentimental while still infusing poignancy.

Bringing Colleen McCullough’s novel to the stage in a compact, 90-minute play is an ambitious goal which McGarry fulfils  admirably, though the story might have benefitted from having some of the side narratives trimmed away. Nevertheless, it’s a charming production with an especially impressive mainstage debut by Ben Goss as Tim.

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