Photo: Heidrun Lohr

Photo: Heidrun Lohr

Sometimes when I really enjoy a piece of theatre the last thing I want to do is describe the best surprises and outline the plot in full- I think it devalues the spontaneous experience of the audience. I’m not sure who reads reviews- and I am certainly not clear on who reads my reviews. In 2007 when I first started reviewing I found it very curious that one of my fellow reviewers never reads anyone but himself. I always read reviews- especially shows I have reviewed- I like to follow the show through all terrain to get a sense of how the show travelled and which reviewers highlighted specific aspects of production.

The Book of Everything is essentially a children’s play (a children’s book originally) and I do not mean that in a pejorative way… as someone who specialises in writing children’s musicals I hold writing for children in very high regard as children smell fraudulent theatre a mile off- and are highly intelligent and curious people- they are sharper, more honest and will indicate (often vocally) their dissatisfaction… so I take great pleasure in attending theatre for young people… and this was a particularly delightful experience.

What I have been thinking about since seeing the show was about the strength of women (especially in numbers) to overcome an overbearing patriarch. I also delighted in the patience which women display towards men in this play- how generous Eliza is. How brave and protective Margot is… how forgiving Jannie is of her husband. How intuitive and generous Mrs Van Amersfoort is of offering Thomas the books he needs. And I’m really glad that all children can experience this type of positive role modelling wherein the women are exponetially interesting and kind and strong- as an adult I am glad of it too (I get terribly weary of weak-willed lovelorn women or selfish conceited maneaters on stage…) And this is a wonderfully empowering play.

The cast are perfect- I especially enjoy John Leary as Jesus- (I’ve enjoyed him in the Marriage of Figaro, Vital Organs, as Bianca in Merchant of Venice … he’s so fun). I think if he really was Jesus, I would feel much sadder than I do every Good Friday.

The best bits in this play deserve to be discovered- so I won’t list them except to say I very nearly went to Mary Rachel Brown’s birthday party last year as a plague of frogs and I laughed heartilly at the post interval fun!

As published at

When we meet Thomas Klopper aged 9 (nearly 10), it is Summer in Amsterdam, Holland, Europe, Northern Hemisphere, Earth, Solar System, Galaxy, Universe, Space. And the year is 1951.

The Book of Everything- Thomas’ wide ranging title for what is essentially his diary- encompasses secret revelations, truths and observation of his life. Thomas (Matthew Whittet) dutifully (and thoroughly) introduces us to his family- his staunch and somewhat terrifying Christian father Abel (Peter Carroll), his kind and mild mother Jannie (Claire Jones) and his “stupid” sister Margot (Alison Bell) and the people who make up his world- or rather street- fierce bicycling trouser-wearing Aunty Pie (Deborah Kennedy), pretty Eliza with the leather leg (Yael Stone), “the witch” Mrs Van Amersfoort (Julie Forsyth) and even a buddy Jesus (John Leary). The book itself, though pocket sized, contains large ideas as Thomas stumbles into love which lifts him two metres into the air, begins to question the existence of God and develops an unlikely book club with a “witch.” Thomas is faced with the most terrifying realisation a person can have- that you are responsible for impacting positive change even when it seems impossible, dangerous or disrespectful to your elders. This is a play about the power of words- in diaries, in books, in poems, in letters which have the power to inform our lives and empower us.

Adapted by Richard Tulloch from the novel by Guus Kuijer, commissioned by Kim Carpenter’s Theatre of Image and co-produced by Company B- director Neil Armfield has skilfully harnessed the talents of some of Australia’s best contemporary talent. Set and Costume designer Kim Carpenter’s giant Book of Everything opens to create the backdrop for the locations in the play complete with whimsical diagrams and notes. Composer (and pianist) Ian Grandage creates a wonderful underscore which swings between playful and sinister at appropriate moments. This is a beautifully constructed play space for Armfield’s delightful cast who’s ensemble fill in the corners of the story with commentary and live sound effects.

Performances by the ensemble are lightly handled and completely charming- each embracing the flaws and the quirks of their characters with commitment and energy. Special mentions must go to Matthew Whittet who balances the cheeky, thoughtful and brave Thomas with great tenderness and Alison Bell whose portrayal of Margot is suitably forceful at the great moment of reckoning.

The Book Of Everything is a wonderfully magical production- full of naieve and raucous surprises, which leaves you feeling relieved and inspired that a simple act of bravery or a grand gesture can undo the wrong in your world.