A flag- bearer of perilous teenage years, Lockie Leonard comes to television in a 26- part series, writes
TIM Winton looks back fondly on his teen years, which is surprising if you consider the perils he encountered when the family moved to the coastal country town of Albany in Western Australia. Like any undersized, smartarsed kid newly arrived at the high school, Winton was set upon by the bullies and threatened with ritual dousing down the toilets.
It can’t have helped that he was the son of the local policeman.
But that was all grist for the mill when, in 1990, Winton began writing his Lockie Leonard trilogy about a 13- year- old boy whose parents have cruelly named Lachlan Robert Louis Stevenson Leonard. As Lockie Leonard: Human Torpedo, Lockie Leonard: Scum Buster and Lockie Leonard: Legend hit the school library shelves, they were devoured by book- phobic surf rats with tousled hair and pimples.
The books continue to resonate with youngsters on the verge of puberty with embarrassing parents and weird siblings. Lockie finds himself dumped in the surf, bullied by Boof and the gang at school and rendered speechless when he meets his dream girl Vicki Streeton. To make matters worse, he suddenly finds ‘‘ lawn’’ growing on his hitherto hairless body and his face is invaded by giant pimples.
Next week, Lockie Leonard hits the airwaves in a 26- part Channel 9 series to be broadcast during the next nine weeks.
The normally media- shy Winton is so happy with what the series’ producer, Essential Viewing- RB Films, has done with Lockie that he offered himself up for interview.
Winton says he watched all 26 half- hour episodes in two days ( rivalling the teenage boy who was given preview copies and wrote, in the show’s first fan letter, ‘‘ I watched 13 episodes until Mum made me stop and have something to eat.’’) Winton’s verdict? ‘‘ I laughed a lot, I got a little misty on a couple of episodes, I looked and thought it’s awkward being young but kind of nice as well,’’ he says. ‘‘ It felt like family television, the sort of show you could sit down with your grandmother or your kid and a pizza, and everyone would get something out of it. For parents it may be heartening that you can still make [ children’s TV] that isn’t completely cynical or product- based.’’
It’s easy to see why Winton is pleased. The series skilfully juxtaposes the in- your- face obsessions of young teenagers with farting and first kisses alongside the sadder mysteries of why Lockie’s uptight mum keeps crying all the time.
His rapturous love of the ocean is beautifully explored in scenes shot around Margaret River and Denmark by underwater cameraman Rick Rifici, who films for surf companies such as Quicksilver, Rusty and Billabong. One of the first children’s series in Australia to be shot in high definition, its more outrageous fantasy moments are captured on hand- held Betacam. Its racy, eye- catching look lends itself to a generation reared on music video clips and coarse images shot on mobile phone cameras.
But most crucial in the credibility stakes was to cast a believable Lockie and 14- year- old Sean Keenan is a perfect fit. This fresh- faced newcomer from Busselton, a southwest town a half- day’s drive from Albany, was plucked from his classroom to audition for the series. Keenan has the gentle vulnerability of a boy who, despite misgivings, loves his poetry- obsessed dad Sarge ( played by Rhys Muldoon) and his over- anxious mother Joy ( Briony Williams).
‘‘ It’s that humanity I like,’’ says Winton, who also loves the performances, ‘‘ not whether the details are like the book.’’
Teen spirits: Author Tim Winton, right, has a few pointers for young Lockie Leonard star Sean Keenan