ED Wightman seems comfortable on stage in of Theatre 3 as he cracks jokes with the actors, chides set designer Andrew Kay over a broken chair and directs Liz de Totth to ride a bike across the stage.He should be at ease. After all, Wightman is a former Theatre Players scholar who was already a local theatre veteran when he left Canberra to study at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and take to the professional stage.
He’s already returned to Rep to do one production, “The Memory of Water,” and now he’s here to direct Richard Tulloch’s “The Book of Everything” adapted by Tulloch from the celebrated children’s novel by Dutch writer Guus Kuijer, the same script made famous on Broadway a couple of years ago by Australia’s Neil Armfield and Kim Carpenter.
Wightman tells CityNews that he’s been doing more and more directing of late, including, of all things, a show for a cruise-ship. Of course he still continues to act, and while here, picked up a role in the new ABC thriller set at Parliament House, “The Code”.
He’s been busy creating credible scenes for a play which deals in the imagination.
Set in Amsterdam during 1951, “The Book of Everything” shows nine-year-old (almost 10) Thomas writing a book that will explain everything—the fish in the canal, a deluge of frogs, the local witch, Mrs van Amersfoort and, the beautiful girl Eliza with the leather leg.
“We’re having a bit of trouble creating the seven plagues of Egypt on stage,” Wightman tells me, adding that fortunately in the theatre, the imagination reigns and you can convince people of almost anything, including the proposition that adult actor Lachlan Ruffy is a nine-year-old boy—“Braces and short pants can do wonders,” he notes.
Wightman in fact never considered using child actor for the role. “film is different, you can protect your child from the content in film by not showing them everything.”
“The Book of Everything,” he says, is a play for all ages, but preferably, he suspects are people over the age of 10. Playwright Tulloch, he says has been faithful to Kuijer’s much-loved book, allowing us to look at the world through the eyes of a child as he seeks that most elusive of pleasures – happiness.
“The Book of Everything”, at Theatre 3, 3 Repertory Lane Acton, September 12-28, bookings to 6257 1950 or canberrarep.org.au