BWW Review: THE BOOK OF EVERYTHING at Howick Little Theatre
Howick Little Theatre should be proud of the diverse range of plays they bring to their stage and equally the effort they put into creating interesting and diverse sets. Their current offering, 'The Book of Everything' is adapted for the stage by one of Australia's leading authors, screen-writers and playrights, Richard Tulloch. The original book was written by Guus Kuijer, a successful author in the Netherlands.
Premiering in Sydney in 2010 Tulloch's play quickly gained notoriety, winning awards and then making it to the New Victory Theatre in New York in 2012 where it was well received.
Set in post-Nazi Netherlands, the story is delivered through the eyes of 9 year old Thomas and highlights his perspective on the domestic violence within his family headed by an abusive Christian fundamentalist. Thomas is writing a book of his thoughts which are movitated by his statement: 'When I grow up I want to be happy'. Underpinning the story is the great kindness that people are able to give despite their circumstances and the willingness to stand up for love even from a position of apparent powerlessness. I can't help but think of our own social problems here in New Zealand and how this play is an excellent reflection of how a community can overcome.
Director Alex Gleed has taken an original approach to this play using tones of Brecht that worked well particularly to illuminate the pain of domestic abuse. Having the performers transitioning in and out of roles was cleverly crafted.
All performers deliver, with some creating a full richness within their characters. You are bound to find your favourites within the diverse personalities in this play.
Ben Egan plays a very cool, casual 'Jesus' and he fully owns the role in both look and delivery as he chats to 9 year old Thomas, played convincingly by high school student Robert Lim who doesn't miss a beat with this child like mannerisms.Thomas's sister Morgot (Raquel Carter) nails the thoughts and actions of a 16 year old girl and together they have an authentic sibling relationship.
Jo Crichton excels as Mother playing down the violence she receives in her dedication to the love that she has for her children.
Mark Madden plays Father, an upstanding citizen who tries to reconcile his violent behaviour. This is a challenging role, having to dish out domestic violence whilst being tortured in his allegance to his is own up-bringing, confused morals and desire to be a good husband and father.
Scarlett Kean brings an uplifting energy and is excellent as Eliza who radiates hope and possibility in spite of her physical disabilities. She's determined to live a positive life and find only 'the good'.
In spite of being teased and taunted for being 'a witch' and losing her husband under horrific conditions (come see the play to find out how) Mrs Van Amersfoot played by Marie Parker not only lives by the cup of human kindness she is willing to stand up for what is right. Parker's clever subtly highlights her character's kindness and strength and ultimately her actions which create a ripple effect to stop the violence and create community and love through her 'reading out loud club'.Feisty Auntie Pie (Bess Fairfax) is not afraid to tell it as it is despite her living in between the Suffragette and Women's Lib eras. 'Ain't no one going to stop her wearing the pants!'
Despite the gravity of the story it ultimately illuminates the strength of our humanity and there are many light hearted moments.
This is a play worth seeing, for both its entertainment and relevant themes albeit from another time and place, they are identifiable in our kiwi society.
Howick Little Theatre
The Book of Everything
Until July 27