The more familiar I become with this digital age, the more aware I am of the importance of story. Computer games, Television, videos posted on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter – they all begin with a story of some kind.
This was brought home to me most forcefully last weekend when our extended family went to the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre to see Storm Boy performed by live actors and three incredibly lifelike pelican puppets. It is probably fair to say that, by the end of the performance, there was not a dry eye in the theatre and that all three generations of our family were equally moved by Colin Thiele’s characters and plot. From the oldest (in their 70s) to the youngest, (just six years old) everyone was engaged, enthralled and enchanted by the story, conceived and written by a country boy from South Australia more than fifty years ago.
First published as Rim of the Morning in 1963, Colin Thiele’s classic story has now been reprinted sixteen times. It was made into a feature film by the South Australian Film Corporation in 1976 and has recently been adapted for the stage and produced jointly by the Sydney Theatre Company and Barking Gecko. The story has spawned countless picture books, chapter books, anthologies, glossy hardbacks with photographs from the movie as illustrations, paperbacks and scripts for both cinema and stage. And now that advances in eBook technology have made it possible to produce electronic picture books in a satisfying way, I have no doubt that Storm Boy will have yet another reincarnation. None of this would have happened if Colin Thiele had not committed his idea to paper, edited and polished it, shaped it into a story and persevered with it right through to publication.
It is interesting to see that in all of the different versions of Storm Boy only the text, the essential story, has remained basically the same. It’s the story that moves people to tears. Although there are any number of worthwhile messages about love and loyalty, growing up, reconciliation and looking after the environment that can be taken from each presentation, the human story is what inevitably connects us all.