Bliss @ Belvoir

Rebecca Varidel
5th Jun 2018

I remember how Carey first challenged me. The first novel that made me sit up and immediately give it a second full reading, after reading and re-reading paragraphs and chapters, was Bliss.

For Harry Joy, dying was the final straw. For 39 years, the advertising executive has been the quintessential ‘good bloke’. But one morning Harry has a heart attack on his suburban front lawn, and, for nine minutes, he dies. On his resuscitation, the successful ad man awakens to a perverse vision of Australia and concludes: this must be Hell. This Hell must have existed his entire life, but Harry was never before awake enough to see it. Now Harry finds the products he advertises cause cancer. Allies have become enemies. His wife, children and friends want to punish him. To escape, Harry sets himself on an uncertain course: living a moral life.

Carey’s classic Australian novel won the Miles Franklin Award in 1981 and was adapted into a film starring Barry Otto in 1986 which took out three AFI Awards and the NSW Premier’s Literary Award for the screenplay in 1986.

This hallucinatory ride from suburbia to the rainforest, and beyond is now on the Belvoir stage, starring Toby Truslove (ABC’s Utopia) as Harry and a stellar ensemble cast including Marco Chiappi, Will McDonald, Amber McMahon, Charlotte Nicdao, Susan Prior, Anna Samson and Mark Coles Smith.

Of this world premiere production, Director Matthew Lutton says, “This is a story about Harry Joy. He is awakening to the Hell he has been complicit in creating and he is only just starting to realise its vastness. He is desperate to change (he wants to be good!) and he is searching for ways to survive.”

Writer and Artistic Associate for Belvoir, Tom Wright, says “Carey wryly portrays an Aussie masculine yarn-spinning tradition that wakes up and realises somewhere along the way it became sloganeering for economic nationalism. Henry Lawson and Joseph Furphy have become ponytailed copywriters, fashioning stories that— in the end—celebrate waste, vapidity, and worse.”

At Belvoir Street Theatre June 9th – July 15th