Review: Rep’s gem of a ‘Book’

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THERE is something of the nine-year-old-boy in us all and this young protagonist, Thomas, played by 23-year-old Lachlan Ruffy, wielded a lovable and incisive archetypal power.

In 2010, “The Book of Everything” won the Sydney Theatre Award for Best Production for Children. Canberra Rep’s production opened to an audience of predominantly older adults who were, willfully and easily drawn into the storybook setting of Amsterdam in 1951.

It takes great writing and directing to make a light and uplifting story about domestic violence and religious hypocrisy. This production was entirely successful, without any sugar-coating or pulling of its punches.

Casting was flawless. Helen Vaughan-Roberts was delightful as neighborhood witch, Mrs van Amersfoort. The relationship between Thomas and his sister Margot (Madeline Kennedy) was feisty, fresh and ultimately heart-warming. Miles Thomson’s Jesus was hilarious and added an element of magical, childhood imagination to the stage. It’s unusual and refreshing to see more female characters on stage than male. And they were all strong, funny and quirky. They spanned a range of ages, and none were highly sexualised.

The resolution and redemption of the story shows the power of a community to manage the damaging behavior of its members. Some of Australia’s best contemporary writing is for young people and Canberra Rep can be congratulated for bringing such a gem to older audiences.

 

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