It’s the news everyone has been waiting for – the latest blockbuster from the Trent Dalton juggernaut – and this time it’s personal. Very personal.

The Brisbane author’s moving and hugely successful narrative non-fiction work Love Stories is coming to the stage with a season at QPAC in September as part of Brisbane Festival.

This is big news coming off the global success of the Netflix series Boy Swallows Universe, based on Dalton’s best-selling debut.

The 2021 stage play of Boy Swallows Universe brought the story alive before the series and its success at the box office meant Brisbane Festival was keen to go again after Love Stories – the play – was pitched to Brisbane Festival artistic director Louise Bezzina.

“How could I say no?” Bezzina says. “My response was an absolutely resounding ‘yes’ after the creative team came to me.”

The team behind the stage play included former Queensland Theatre artistic director Sam Strong and writer Tim McGarry, who took Boy Swallows Universe from page to stage.

I mention the phrase “getting the band back together again” to Dalton when we speak about the new project.

“That’s exactly it,” Dalton enthuses. “In fact, I got a text that said exactly that.”

But Love Stories is a very different book to Boy Swallows Universe. Being narrative non-fiction makes it trickier. You’ll remember its genesis – Dalton spending two months on a Brisbane CBD street corner with an old Olivetti typewriter (bequeathed to him by the much-loved late mum of a mate), asking people from all walks of life the simple question: “Can you please tell me a love story?”

And they did. It was a unique book with the stories melded together with Dalton’s lively narrative and revealing prose. It was his wife, fellow journalist Fiona Franzmann, who suggested that Love Stories could work on stage, Dalton reveals.

“Fi and I were at Burleigh Heads on holiday and she turns to me and says – this would make a great play,” Dalton recalls.  “I wondered how that could happen and I said – how would you wind a line through all those stories?

“And Fi just looked at me and said – us.  She suggested telling our story too. I said, would you be willing to do that?”

His wife nodded and the rest is history – or it soon will be, and another opportunity for the couple’s daughters to say, “Here we go again” according to Dalton.

Dalton, 44, is used to revealing his inner-most thoughts and feelings, but it was a revelation to work with Fiona, 51. Tim McGarry has written the play with additional writing by Trent and Fiona.

“She has just let rip on our marriage,” Dalton says. “It has been terrifying and beautiful.  And after we discussed this, a week later Sam Strong sent me an email saying he thought Love Stories would make a great play. So, Tim, Sam, Fi and I sat around at our house and talked about love. It was the dream scenario.”

And it’s a dream scenario for fans who were wondering what is next.

Okay, Dalton is writing another book, that’s a given, but after the Netflix series everyone is hungry for more and wondering if his latest book, Lola in the Mirror will also be on Netflix.

“I’m not answering that and you can make of that what you like,” Dalton says.

In the meantime, we have Love Stories the play as a centrepiece of Brisbane Festival in September, so fans don’t have to wait too long for their next Trent Dalton sugar hit.

Leading the cast are Jason Klarwein as the writer and husband and Michala Banas as his wife – both characters inspired by Dalton’s own love story with wife Fiona Franzmann.

Rashidi Edwards is the narrator Jean-Benoit, a Belgian busker who befriends the writer and will set the scene from his corner of the world on Adelaide and Albert streets.

An ensemble cast including Kimie Tsukakoshi, Jeanette Cronin, Mathew Cooper, Bryan Probets and dancers Jacob Watton and Hsin-Ju Ely will illuminate the extraordinary in the lives of ordinary Australians.

So, does this mean Klarwein is playing Dalton?

“Not exactly,” the author says. “We have just called the characters Husband and Wife because we want them to reflect a universal truth and that enabled us to go harder and it just sort of distances us enough.”

Dalton says he has written about his wife before and, after all, she is the inspiration for Caitlyn Spies, Eli Bell’s love interest in Boy Swallows Universe.  He says it’s great that we now get her voice directly involved.

Director Sam Strong says Love Stories “will be filled with everything that people adore about the book and Trent’s work – beautifully specific Brisbane stories that speak universal truths, undeniably unforgettable people and stories that sometimes break our hearts but always fill them”.

“In translating Love Stories into the theatre, we’re also building on the original,” he says. “Trent and Fiona’s own love story, which interweaves through the book, has been expanded by them for the stage show. In addition, we’re including some of the incredible love stories that have been shared since the book was published.

“Finally, while we can’t give too much away, Love Stories will dissolve the wall between the theatre and the city, bringing the rich diversity of Brisbane centre stage, and sending a joyous message of love back into the world.”

After Brisbane Festival artistic director Louise Bezzina said her resounding yes, she took it to QPAC chief executive John Kotzas, who matched her yes with his and immediately promised to back it.

Kotzas says following the enormous success of the Boy Swallows Universe production, it was an easy decision to commission another stage adaptation of Dalton’s books.

“Trent’s power is not only in his words – which are inherently so theatrical – but in his ability to scrutinise the complexity of what it is to be human, with a heavy dose of heart and optimism that we can all connect with,” he says.

“We saw this power to stunning effect in the tens of thousands of people who came to see Boy Swallows Universe in the Playhouse, and I know we’ll see the same impact in this theatrical tribute to love.”

Bezzina says Brisbane Festival is dedicated to making “big new local works of scale”.

“So, I am honoured and delighted that we are making this one,” she says. “We all worked so well together last time and it was a great success, so it makes perfect sense to do this.

“I was just in Adelaide and I went to Writers Week and I walked into the book store there and saw a sign saying that Love Stories had sold out. I thought – that’s a good sign.”

The strictly limited world premiere season of Love Stories will be presented by Brisbane Festival and QPAC. Tickets will go on sale to the public at 10am (AEST) on Thursday, March 7 via or 136 246.

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