THE BOOK OF EVERYTHING
04/03/2016 - 05/03/2016
17/03/2016 - 20/03/2016
14/03/2015 - 22/03/2015
PANNZ Tour-Makers 2016
Following its sell-out, award-winning and critically acclaimed 2015 Auckland Arts Festival season, the show that beguiled and inspired audiences of every kind is back! The Book of Everything returns to the mainstage at Q Theatre from Feb 12 – 25 before taking the Silo experience to a wider audience, touring to New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Napier and Hamilton in March 2016.
Under the stunning direction of Silo Artistic Director Sophie Roberts – The Book of Everything received two Auckland Theatre Awards in 2015 for ‘Excellence in all aspects of the production’ and ‘Best Ensemble’. A stellar cast including Rima Te Wiata, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Stephen Lovatt, Amanda Billing, Dan Musgrove, Amanda Tito, Michelle Blundell, and newcomer Patrick Carroll will take the stage in 2016 to create a vital conversation around family violence, courage and friendship.
The esteemed design team of John Verryt, Kirsty Cameron, Sean Lynch and Auckland Theatre Awards Excellence winner Thomas Press collaborate to bring the world of the play to life once again.
TSB Showplace New Plymouth, NZ
Fri 4 – Sat 5 March 2016
Regent on Broadway, Palmerston North
Tues 8 – Wed 9 March 2016
Municipal Theatre, Napier
Sat 12 – Sun 13 March 2016
Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, Waikato UniversityThur 17th @ 7pm, Fri 18th @ 7pm, and Sun 20th @ 2pm
Mia Blake, Tim Carlsen, Sam Snedden and Jennifer Ward-Lealand join Michelle Blundell, Patrick Carroll, Rima Te Wiata and Olivia Tennet to complete the heavyweight cast announced for The Book Of Everything, a major new co-production from the Auckland Arts Festival and Silo Theatre.
An adaptation of the classic children’s novel by Guus Kuijer, The Book of Everything tells the story of nine-year-old Thomas Klopper.
It’s 1951, and to escape an unhappy household and a violent father, Thomas creates a magical world where anything is possible – odd encounters with Jesus, friendship with the witch next door and falling in love for the very first time. Eventually he starts to learn how to be brave.
Directed by Silo Theatre’s new artistic director, Sophie Roberts, The Book of Everything features a roll call of some of the best local acting talent, from fresh new faces to veterans of New Zealand stage and screen.
Making his professional theatre debut, Patrick Carroll plays Thomas, the hero of the story. Carroll is a 2014 graduate of Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School.
Thomas’ Mother is brought to life by award-winning actress Mia Blake (The Tattooist; No. 2). Blake starred in last year’s epic two-part theatre saga, Angels in America.
Popular Auckland stage actor Sam Snedden (The Blind Date Project, Once On Chunuk Bair, Private Lives) plays Thomas’ strict and conflicted Father.
Last seen in the New Zealand Film Award-winning drama, Consent: The Louise Nicholas Story, Michelle Blundell plays Thomas’ love interest, Eliza with the Leather Leg; while Olivia Tennet (360: A Theatre of Recollections)is Thomas’ sister Margot.
After a critically acclaimed season of his show One Day Moko,Tim Carlsen (Once On Chunuk Bair, Tartuffe) joins The Book of Everything cast to play the role of Jesus.
Rounding out this exciting ensemble are two of New Zealand’s most revered actors. Last seen in the hit New Zealand horror film Housebound, Rima Te Wiata playsMrs Van Amersfoort, Thomas’ mysterious next-door neighbour who happens to be a witch. Joining Rima is fellow veteran of stage and screen Jennifer Ward-Lealand (BREL, The Heretic, Auckland Daze), as the eccentric Auntie Pie.
“Hilarious, honest and beautifully rendered. I walked out with my heart singing.” – theguardian.com
The Book of Everything
Where: Rangatira, Q Theatre
When: Saturday 14 March – Sunday 15 March 2015, 1.00pm & 6.00pm
Tuesday 17 March – Friday 20 March, 6.00pm
Saturday 21 March, 1.00pm & 6.00pm
Sunday 22 March, 12.00pm & 5.00pm
Duration: 2 hrs including 15 mins interval
Price: A Res $49.00 | Friends/Conc $42.00 | A Res Child $20.00 | B Res $39.00 | B Res Friend/Conc/Group $32.00 | B Res Child $15.00
*Recommended for ages 9+
With support from Creative New Zealand
Auckland Arts Festival receives core funding from Auckland Council.
Social Media: Facebook: facebook.com/Aklfestival
About Auckland Arts Festival 2015:
Auckland Arts Festival (4 – 22 March) is Auckland’s premier festival of New Zealand and international arts. The globally recognised event celebrates people and culture, and showcases the unrivalled location, cultural diversity and vibrant energy of New Zealand’s largest city.
Auckland Arts Festival 2015 will be the seventh biennial Festival since 2003.
Nearly 1.2 million people have attended the Festivals to date.
From 2016 the Festival will become an annual event.
For nineteen days, in dozens of venues across Auckland, more than 100 world class shows, exhibitions and performers – both local and international – will astound, entertain and delight arts fanatics and Festival first-timers alike.
About Silo Theatre:
Silo Theatre is Auckland’s leading producer of contemporary theatre.
They create bold work: showcasing energetic and uncompromising performance. They’re epic in scale, with no embargo on either ambition or artistic risk. They deliver cutting-edge next generation storytelling from around the world and New Zealand. They’re global in their outlook – speaking to contemporary concerns, dealing with human, emotional and sexual politics.
Set design – John Verryt
Costume design – Kirsty Cameron
Lighting design – Sean Lynch
Sound design – Thomas Press
PANNZ Tour-Makers 2016
Rima Te Wiata
MIA BLAKE - Jannie Klopper (Mother)
MICHELLE BLUNDELL - Eliza With The Leather Leg
TIM CARLSEN - Jesus
PATRICK CARROLL - Thomas Klopper
SAM SNEDDEN - Abel Klopper (Father)
RIMA TE WIATA - Mrs. Van Amersfoort
OLIVIA TENNET - Margot Klopper
JENNIFER WARD-LEALAND - Auntie Pie
Theatre , Family , Children’s ,
2hrs 15 min including interval
Review by Gail Pittaway 18th Mar 2016
From the moment Patrick Carroll addresses the audience with one of his quirky grins, as the character Thomas Klopper, writing into his personal inventory, ‘The Book of Everything’, we know we are in for a treat. At its simplest this is a story about a damaged family in post-war Amsterdam (1951) and Thomas is 9, “but nearly 10”.
But, as with our own New Zealand ‘boyhood’ novel from the same era, The God Boy by Ian Cross, the hero is slightly set apart from his family and neighbours by his ability to see things that no-one else can – in this case tropical fish swimming in a Dutch canal, sudden cosmic changes in the weather, a rainfall of green frogs. He even conjures up a very palsy relationship with Jesus (Dan Musgrove) who emerges out of the family’s ‘Light of the World’-styled portrait as a laid-back hippie, manqué, and persuades Thomas to drop the “Lord” in his name.
This Lord Jesus is in direct contrast with Thomas’ father, an office worker by day but also a lay preacher in an unspecified tiny Protestant congregation, who rules the family with a wooden spoon and a sharp backhander, all the while quoting scripture. Thomas as storybook hero doesn’t need to go out on a quest to find monsters – he lives with one.
Thomas’ untrammelled imagination is both his escape from the reality of a brutal father and a source of transformation and recovery for many of the people in his life. The audience, too, is drawn into the world of the play by the sheer joyousness of the production and performances, from that opening direct address, to many asides, in-jokes, chorus work, impeccably-timed movement, songs, running gags – none of which I am prepared to divulge, but they’re laugh-out-loud – to brilliantly simple kinds of audience participation. All of which rollick a play about family violence along to its moving end.
In a show where every role is a cameo and every character undergoes a transformation either in their lives or in the audience’s eyes, the cast is outstanding. Carroll’s characterisation as Thomas is faultless and in his mannerisms we see not just the boy but the endearing man he might become.
Stephen Lovatt bravely takes on two ‘monster’ roles: the father and also the neighbourhood dog, Bumbiter; a switch from realism to farce which demonstrates the extreme playfulness of the adaptation. In each role he gives a whiff of vulnerability and fear behind the bullying.
Amanda Billing as Mother and Amanda Tito as Margot complete the family unit and convincingly take their characters well beyond stereotypes as female victims, with surprising developments, while Michelle Blundell as Eliza, with a leather leg and damaged hand, is a suitably fey object for Thomas’s early romantic yearnings.
It’s the intervention of two magnificent women which pushes the situation to a crisis. Jennifer Ward-Lealand as Auntie-Pie (who effects the most marvellous physical transformation) and Rima Te Wiata as the neighbour Mrs Van Amersfoort give rich and arresting performances, turning stereotypes of a frumpy aunt and the suspected witch into characters both comic and inspiring.
Billed as a play for children “from 10 to 110”, and adapted from the original novel by Guus Kuijer by Australian Richard Tulloch, a sense of play and whimsy colours every aspect of this show despite this seriousness of situation and theme. So it’s not surprising to read that Tulloch is also credited with much of the writing for the television series Bananas in Pyjamas.
The Book of Everything production uses a huge range of storybook techniques and theatre magic to work against the horror of family violence. Beginning with its superb tiered chalkboard set, designed by John Verryt, lit with great subtlety by Sean Lynch, and based on Amsterdam’s tall thin housing, with scenes rubbed out or drawn back in, it unfolds the set for Mrs van Amersfoort’s gloriously bookish sitting room (where books and music take on lives of their own and lead to the beguiling ‘Reading out loud club’). Every home has its secrets, but they are hard to hide when walls are paper thin, so these simply intertwining sets work towards an exposition of the family situation seamlessly.
Then there’s the sound design by Thomas Press, in which live sound effects are made by alternating cast members, even audience members by invitation: the creak of Eliza’s leather leg, the repeated motifs of scraping of dinner plates and clatter of cutlery at the otherwise silent Klopper meal time, the croaking of frogs, all interspersed with recorded music and sounds perfectly timed.
At first all this stage business seems a little too distracting, too busy and playful to move things along, but in the end it all comes together, under imaginative direction from the Silo Theatre company’s Sophie Roberts, as do cast and audience, to one of the most vibrant endings it is possible to experience together. Above all, through these few hours of stage magic, we rekindle the same wish for ourselves as for the little boy we have come to care for, to simply “Be happy”.
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Charming, engaging access to broader, deeper issues
Review by Ngaire Riley 05th Mar 2016
Don’t look at the ad and think that this is a show just for kids. The Book of Everything lives up to its name – there is joy, pain, insight and whimsy for everyone. Don’t miss it. Take the whole family. It is a bit scary, so perhaps leave those under eight at home.
This piece of theatre does what theatre should do: create an experience that is richly different from movies or TV. The characters use conventions, ritual, sound, music and set to share the life, experiences and coming of age of nine year-old Thomas.
The delightful set, designed by John Verryt and made by 2 Construct, sets the tone by creating a world with chalk – that old school stuff. Mother sets the table by drawing the plates on the table, with chalk. The eating is created by the Brechtian device of an on stage sound effects person scraping the plate which is amplified by microphone, while the family are still. This, along with a synchronised sitting ritual, vibrantly heightens the tension of the family.
This is theatre that uses the imagination of the creators, actors and audience.
It is a wonderful ensemble piece. Each character shares in the telling of the narration and experiences of Thomas. There’s laughter and fun, at first created by Bumbiter, the dog and then Jesus, who is there in person for much of the evening. A delightful cat, which mainly lives on the world globe, is also cheekily managed, as are the frogs.
There is charming, engaging pure entertainment in this piece, as well as broader, deeper issues. The Director Sophie Roberts, in an after show chat, spoke about shows too often ‘dumbing down’ and underrating the understanding and intelligence of the audience.
She wants to confront real issues, and this piece does. For the young, it may be about being brave – how do you find the courage to visit a neighbour you think is a witch? But it is also about bullying and domestic violence and courage and earning respect and people reaching out to each other to find the strength to make changes to behaviours and traditions that are no longer acceptable. These are the issues that confront the adults and the audience.
I particularly enjoy the character of Mrs van Amersfoort. As a woman who has suffered Nazi brutality, she has every reason to wear black. However, her red tights peeping out and her delight in the poetry of Ogden Nash remind us that passion never dies and that it is the simple everyday pleasures that bring joy to life.
I liked this so much I am going again tonight. Thank you so much Silo Theatre and PANNZ Tour-Makers for bringing this fabulous piece of work to the provinces.
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Review by Matt Baker 16th Mar 2015
When the book that inspires a play has been called a modern classic, when the play itself has been self-attributed with “…beautiful, magical, surprising, touching, terrifying, joyous, inspiring, funny, and ultimately uplifting…”, and when the premiere was critically acclaimed as a “hilarious, honest, and beautifully rendered play”, there is a lot to which any other production must live up. This pressure that accompanies The Book of Everything means that although it is a logical co-production between Silo and Auckland Arts Festival, advertising its accessibility to everyone aged 9-90, the hype can be more detrimental than beneficial.
Simplifying “adult” concepts via the eyes of a child is a powerful device and has been used successfully in myriad books, films, and plays, and while author Guus Kuijer has been consistently recognised for his literary contributions, there is a lack of resonance in the issue of domestic abuse as addressed in Richard Tulloch’s adapted script. [More]
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Fable with flair
Review by Paul Simei-Barton 16th Mar 2015
Silo Theatre brings flair to the stage adaptation of a delightful modern fable by Dutch writer Guus Kuijer.
The story inverts the fairytale formula by which children leave home to encounter monsters and has a 9-year-old hero facing down the wickedness that lurks beneath the genteel facade of middle-class domesticity. [More]
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Review by Simon Wilson 16th Mar 2015
Step by step, the festival is building up its must-see shows. Macbeth, Hikoi, Lake St Dive and Neneh Cherry, on my list. And now The Book of Everything. It runs till next Sunday, but don’t leave it late. This show deserves to book out.
Why so good? It’s a confronting play about domestic violence. And it’s for kids, as in, kids from about 10, although without question it’s for adults too. Amsterdam, early 1950s, fundamentalist white Christian family… in so many ways this play seems like it might be culturally alien to us here. But it’s not. No recent local work I know of comes remotely as close as this to unpicking the dark secret of so many New Zealand homes. [More]
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Openhearted honesty and humour
Review by Nik Smythe 15th Mar 2015
Australian playwright Richard Tulloch wrote the script for this stirring theatrical curiosity based on the translation of Dutch author Guus Kuijer’s 2005 children’s novel. I note that Kuijer, born in 1942, is essentially the same age as his story’s protagonist, as written from the point of view of precociously affable nine, almost ten year-old Thomas Klopper (here played by Patrick Carroll), in 1951.
Wide-eyed and unceasingly curious, Thomas generally sees the best in people around him as he both cheerfully and earnestly pursues his simple ambition to be happy. The plot is inherently simple and ultimately (for want of a better word) predictable up to a point – that point being when the play concludes about half a scene earlier than I expected, leaving certain narrative questions and their potential outcomes undisclosed.
Coming to terms with growing up in a city still reeling and recovering from a war, he’s too young to have strong memories of himself, Thomas keeps a personal diary of thoughts and observations he calls ‘The book of everything’. Supposedly it is the material recorded in his book that supplies the play’s narrative, and the fertile inner workings of his imagination that informs the spectacular absurdism underpinning the dialogue and production values.
Surrounding Carroll’s charmingly ingenuous turn is a highly accomplished cast, not only weighing in with their own expertly pitched portrayals but also adding-to and erasing-from the chalk-drawn set, as well as taking turns supplying live foley from the stage-right shadows.
Sam Snedden and Mia Blake play the archetypal post-war parents: his stern, strict patriarch (a church minister, no less) to her compassionate, loving matriarch. Jennifer Ward-Lealand is lovable, just slightly odd Auntie Pie (pronounced Pee), her candour representing the rise of the ensuing battle for women’s rights in a man’s world, which comes to a head when she has the brazen audacity to buy herself a pair of trousers.
Olivia Tennet is sixteen year-old Margot, bright like Thomas but more petulant; a classic sibling rival for whom he has little respect as the story opens, and the feeling is mutual. However, when united by a common threat, this family knows who and what matter. Michelle Blundell plays Margot’s amiably frank school friend Eliza (pronounced Eleeza), who sports a creaky leather leg due to an unspecified condition or mishap. Thomas is well impressed both with her radiant beauty, as he sees it, as well as how she shares in his creative visions, which some might call hallucinations.
Rima Te Wiata embraces her pivotal role as the Klopper’s next door neighbour, Mrs van Amersfort, just as the character gaily embraces the role she’s been cast in by the neighbourhood – that of eccentric, allegedly dangerous witch. And when no-one corporeal can answer Thomas’s crucial queries, he entreats the advice of his imaginary friend – none other than the son of man himself, Lord Jesus. Tim Carlsen is the ultimate laid-back, world-weary, hipster guru in a Tudor-style cape, dispensing wisdom both clear and ambiguous as the situation demands.
Director Sophie Roberts has unapologetically peppered, nay riddled, the presentation throughout with in-jokes, dad-jokes, one-liners and sight gags, including a touch of classic pantomime-style audience participation.
It is quite the cerebral workout, albeit so entertaining that said workout is an ease and a pleasure; the two hours fairly fly by enjoying an utterly credible rendering of the sort of play a nine-year-old continental baby-boomer might produce if offered the necessary resources.
This openhearted honesty and humour serve to endear us strongly to Thomas and almost everyone in the story, with the possible exception of his unconscionably pig-headed Papa, so that when things turn dark and noxious (normally around dinnertime), the depth of pathos matches the heights of the comedy.
Domestic violence seems an unusual topic for a children’s story; then again for countless kids who’ve experienced or witnessed such abuse firsthand, it could be a welcome acknowledgement of an oft-concealed problem, offering potential solutions and coping mechanisms.
Set designer John Verryt has aptly and ably channelled his own inner nine-year-old to achieve a triumphantly inventive set design, which draws a number of gasps and impressed remarks in the course of the two-act production. The singular large centre-stage multi-level construction is liberally accessorised with windows and trapdoors, rising platforms and other ingenious devices. The entire construction has been painted matt black and profusely decorated with colourful, childish chalk-drawn accoutrement within the domestic setting, and extending to the abundant aquatic life drawn across the façade below the stage front to represent (Thomas’s version of) the local canal.
The contributions of the remaining design and production crew cannot be overstated. Composer/sound designer Thomas Press generously enriches the action with a swag of ingenious holophonic sound effects including the aforementioned live foley, and his fully realised musical score featuring outstanding violinist Jess Hindin.
Sean Lynch’s exemplary lighting design makes skilful use of the visual opportunities provided by the set, and renowned costume designer Kirsty Cameron’s consummate array of duds and frocks reveals a fondly recollected, tastefully innocent fashion era.
(Self-indulgent afterword): There’s a page in the programme in which a circular connection is made between all the members of the company in relation to projects they’ve worked on together previously, including that Sean Lynch and John Verryt’s first Silo project together was 2005’s Plenty. Coincidentally, that play was the first I ever reviewed for this website – almost a decade ago! Jeesh.
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