Left – M Kennedy, L Hart, M Thompson, Lachlan Ruffy, L deTotth, Jerry Hearn. Photo – Cliff Spong
Let me just say this up front: there is nothing funny about domestic violence. However, if you don’t laugh all the way through this play, there’s something wrong with you! I would guess the only people not laughing would be abusers themselves, so maybe we should keep one eye on the auditorium during performances!
Canberra Repertory’s whimsical production of The Book of Everything is a magical piece of theatre that could transport someone of any age back to their childhood. The simple, very human joy of simply telling a story is not lost in the dark themes that emerge from the pages of Thomas Klopper’s book, but even the darkest moments are punctuated by a childlike optimism.
Set in West Amsterdam in 1951, the story centres on the home of Thomas Klopper, where he lives with his parents and (stupid) sister. Yes, the story is told by Thomas, but the other characters portray his viewpoint as he, his mother, sister and aunt find the courage to confront his abusive father.
Andrew Kay's fun set for this play just keeps on surprising with new spaces created blackboard-like, with cavities for props and furniture popping on stage magically. Audients need not fear the audience participation, as it is beautifully handled and really does add to the atmosphere.
Lachlan Ruffy’s performance as Thomas Klopper leaves no room for doubt. He is absolutely believable as Thomas, and brings a warmth and energy that few could match. He leads a great cast who likewise deliver marvellously engaging performances that capture the brilliantly funny moments that punctuate this play’s very heavy theme.
And while some storytellers may have simply demonised this father, between the script and some lovely delicacy of performance by Jerry Hearn, even this character is portrayed with humanity and depth, and is confronted with compassion rather than retaliation. With the great humour of this play, it makes for a rare combination.
There is nothing more important in theatre than being able to tell a story well, and this must be one of the finest presentations of a story I have ever witnessed. Conventions are of little consequence as these performers gently and unassumingly take their audients into the world of Thomas Klopper, aged almost ten. The story is everything, and the performances bring it to life.
There may not be much to laugh about when it comes to domestic violence, but an optimistic outlook is the most important part of healing, and this play does a lot to put that into perspective.
Canberra Repertory Society presents
The Book Of Everything
by Richard Tulloch
Directed by Ed Wightman
Venue: Theatre 3 | 3 Repertory Lane ACTON ACT
Dates: 13 - 28 September, 2013
Tickets: $40 – $35