Boy Overbaord is a play adapted by Patricia Cornelius from a novel by Morris Gleitzman. The universal themes of “courage amidst darkness”, “belonging and acceptance”, and “the dreams of a passionate young boy conquering all odds” are contextualized in the life of an Afghanistan refugee boy named Jamal and his family and friends boarding a battered vessel led by cruel people smugglers in the direction of unknown Australia. Whilst the context of the horrendous plight of war and violence by the Taliban since 1996 in Jamal’s beloved home country Afghanistan, is both unknown to us and not dealt with directly in the play. Nonetheless, we come to identify with this feisty and courageous young boy, Jamal, who just wants to be a soccer legend!
With the plight of refugees in the media constantly how can one not be drawn to the story of a young refugee boy facing the unknown and dealing with incredible adversity. The drama ensemble of St Patrick’s College in association with Santa Sabina breath new life into this modern day adventure story filled with peril and disaster but always hope. Jamal and his family are thrust into a terrible situation with their freedom of choice being stripped from them. In terms of power and control, they have none – over the battered vessels that take them to sea nor the cruel people smugglers who treat them appallingly. They risk everything and have given up everything – for what? There’s no guarantee of safe delivery. No knowledge of their fate. Just a hope that an unknown country – Australia – will be a haven.
One question Morris Gleitzman leaves unanswered is whether Jamal’s faith and hope will be rewarded. After all Jamal and his family go through, will they be recognised and welcomed? Just how ‘overboard’ does a boy have to go?