The Book of Everything

Yesterday we took the kids to the Belvoir St Theatre to see The Book of Everything, I’d had the tickets tucked away in my diary for more than a year and had completely forgotten what the play was about, all I remembered was that it was meant to be good for ages 8 and up.

From Australian Stage

The Book of Everything | Theatre of Image & Company B Belvoir

book_of_everything_html_m18787390AUNTIE PIE: Have you thought about what you want to be when you grow up, Thomas?

THOMAS: Happy. I want to be happy.

The Book of Everything centres on nine-year old Thomas, a little boy who dreams big. Directed by Neil Armfield, this magical tale follows the story of a child who sees things others cannot imagine, and whose spirit and curiosity wins over those around him.

Thomas is writing a book. His father says all important books are about God. Even so, Thomas writes down all the interesting things he sees that other people seem to ignore – tropical fish in the canal, a deluge of frogs, the Son of God popping in for a chat – and calls it The Book of Everything.

Featuring a colourful cast of characters, including sunny Auntie Pie, the vicious Bumbiter, a beautiful girl with a leather leg, the startling Mrs Van Amersfoort, and Jesus, this play will appeal to adults and families over the holiday season.

Neil Armfield said, ‘The Book of Everything has enormous spirit and celebrates the ability children have to let their imaginations roam. It’s a funny, generous show that will grab your heart and challenge your mind, no matter how old you are’.

The Book of Everything is based on an original novel written by the award-winning Dutch children’s writer Guus Kuijer. It was adapted for the stage by Richard Tulloch, one of Australia’s leadng writers of books, plays and television for young audiences. He was the principal writer of Bananas in Pyjamas and has written numerous children’s books including Danny in the Toybox and Being Bad for the Babysitter. His 2003 Sydney Festival puppet theatre piece Twinkle Twinkle Little Fish went on to play on Broadway. His other children’s plays include Hating Alison Ashley and Talking to Grandma While the World Goes By. He also works as a travel journalist, and speaks fluent Dutch enabling him to write the stage adaptation for The Book of Everything from the original novel.

It was fantastic!

The Belvoir Street theatre is a fairly small venue, the front row of seats is right up against the stage, we were in row C and the kids were quite amused to find that the easiest route to our seats was to walk down the stairs onto the stage and climb up the side of the section to our seats at the far end of the row – much better than climbing over everyone sitting in the rest of the row! The program for the show most unusually included the entire script of the play, Tom has been reading it today. The script is illustrated with the scenery backdrop paintings that were used in the production.

From the script:

This is an ensemble piece; actors not involved in particular scenes sometimes remain on stage, observing, commenting on the action and supplying sound effects and props as required.

(The) design…featured a large copy of Thomas’s book, The Book of Everything, standing upstage centre. Pages were turned during the performance to reveal…the different locations.

This worked brilliantly, the movements of the actors flowed beautifully as they came in and out of the centre stage area and turned the giant book’s pages to change the settings. The fourth wall was somewhat permeable but the many nods and winks to the audience didn’t stop the kids (and me!) from becoming quite involved in the story. There was laughing, gasps of surprise, indrawn breaths of fearful anticipation (that was mostly from Tom) and even tears a couple of times – I had to scrounge a tissue from Adam, rip it in two and give half each to Tom and Caitlin at one point.

During interval the cast went around the audience distributing frogs* for us to throw on stage early in the second act, we were also required to make frog noises – much fun! At the end of the play there was a scene which required rather more people than there were cast members, so audience members were brought on-stage as extras. There were a couple of adults and a handful of kids chosen and the very last to be asked to join in was Caitlin, she didn’t have her hand raised or anything so it was a bit of a surprise and I think she was a little overwhelmed but she rose to the occasion 🙂 It was quite distracting to have my own kid on-stage during the last scene – I kept watching her instead of the actors!

What I really wasn’t expecting (and this will teach me not to check for details of what a play is about before arriving at the venue with the kids!) was the somewhat confronting domestic violence part of the plot with both Thomas and his mother being beaten by the father and the 16 year old sister confronting her father with carving knife in hand. But, being a story intended for kids, there was resolution and healing at the end and it certainly led to interesting conversations about relationships on the way home in the car.

There’s a rather nice preview article on SMH which includes an interview with the 33 year old actor, Matthew Whittet, who played 9 year old Thomas.

*Green ping pong balls 🙂 Had you worried there for a moment didn’t I?

12 thoughts on “The Book of Everything

  1. A nine year old wanting to be happy when he grows up? What a concept! I like Thomas. Sounds like I'd like the play.Mim! Your gorgeous sweet crystal Christmas tree earrings arrived this weekend! Oh, I adore them! They are so very lovely. Thank you so much, sweet friend, for making good on your promise and sending me a handcrafted gift. Unfortunately, they didn't arrive in time to wear for Christmas, but I got them plenty early for next Christmas.Thank you again so very very much. I not only will cherish the earrings, but you for going to the trouble and expense to send them to me. I even saved the mailing envelope. Don't get too many things from Australia, you know!Much love and good wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2010. Casa Hice loves you!

  2. This sounds like a play that is right up my alley. I love it and intend to do some research on it. It sounds fantastic!

  3. I think gently tossing frogs would have been more fun!! (as long as no frogs were hurt in the process!)Hallie

  4. The book was wonderful too, but yes, confronting and terribly sad in parts. As life is, I suppose. Glad to hear the play was so good.

  5. Thanks for posting your thoughtful comments, Mim. Yes, in rehearsals there was naturally much discussion about the violence in the show. It’s unavoidable in the story, and without the shock of seeing it, we wouldn’t feel the same elation when Thomas eventually rises above it. But we hope that by making it stylized and short it won’t dominate the whole experience for kids, so that they are unable to appreciate the happier scenes. Because our audiences so far have been mostly adults, it’s hard to judge how children are responding to the show, so it’s interesting to hear that your children wanted to talk about it afterwards. That’s the whole idea of course.Richard Tulloch

  6. Hi Richard, thanks for visiting my blog 🙂 We really did enjoy the play and I thought the balance between the serious stuff and the fun stuff was perfect.

  7. Oh my goodness. This sounds so good. I want to go see it! I am going to see if it is any where around here! What a fun outing for you and the children. I just love it!

  8. @Alix, Liz & LwK I'm sure you would all love it and hopefully it will end up being put on somewhere nearby for all of you. It's a brand new play – the opening performance was on Jan 2nd, so it may take some time to make an appearance over your way!

  9. WOW! You even had someone from the play commenting – terrific!Sounds like an amazing experience. Truthfully, when I danced in a classical ballet company for a few years, my favorite performances were Junior Programs – where we performed comedies as a field trip for elementary students… it was marvelous to see the kids reacting aloud in the audience. Far more entertaining for us than for them in all likelihood! :)Thanks for sharing – I much enjoyed it!

  10. Thanks for telling us about this, Mim. I'm going to watch for a production here. Jim and I love going to plays. This one sounds wonderful!

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