THE BOOK OF EVERYTHING has had a long journey to make it the stage where it received a mainstream production by legendary director Neil Armfield at the Belvoir Street Theatre in 2010.

Shortly after World War 2 a Dutch boy Thomas Klopper kept a diary called The Book Of Everything in which he wrote he wrote his innermost feelings, thoughts and sometimes wild imaginings.

Some fifty years later Klopper set up a meeting with acclaimed Dutch writer Guu Kuiijer and showed him his much treasured diary. After many meetings between the two of them Kuiijer agreed to turn his diary into what was become a successful children’s novel.

Further down the track, in 2009, Richard Tulloch wrote the stage adaptation of the novel for Belvoir Street Theatre which went on to be published by Currency Press in 2011.

Presently, the Arts Theatre in Cronulla is in the midst of a revival of Tulloch’s fine play.

It doesn’t take long into the play to work out that Thomas’s issues stem from an unhappy family life.

His father is a a gruff, devoutly christian man who rules the household like an autocrat. He has anger outbursts in which he hits his wife and uses the wooden spoon on Thomas. Thomas also has problems with his older sister who he thinks isn’t too smart.

Thomas’ way of coping is to play some rebellious games against his Dad, and also to have a rich fantasy life. Included in this is his intimate conversations with his imaginary friend Lord Jesus. Nothing like going to the top!

Thomas also has a crush on local girl Eliza, a friend of his sister’s, which helps to lift his spirits.

Cheryl Butler’s production was a warm, inviting and sometimes fun one. The audience were given ping pong balls in lieu of frogs which were thrown onto the stage when the mischievous Thomas was trying to feign the Plagues of Egypt that were descending on the family house to scare his father.

Butler’s set was of just the one location, the family living room, which featured children’s drawings across all  the walls. Chairs were placed on both sides of the stage for secondary characters to use as they observed the action until such times when they participated in the action.  Props were brought in and off the stage by the cast.

Liz Vassilolacos was excellent as Thomas. I could see how she would have passed the audition for the best person for the role. Her Thomas was irrepressible and mischievous, just as Tulloch wrote his character.

Jaz Haynes impressed as Thomas’ autocratic father who was forever delivering homilies to the family.His character  made me of Gough Whitlam’s classic phrase in regards to religious zealots, describing them as  bible bashing bastards. I also tired of seeing him regularly storm into the apartment with his briefcase in hand after a day at work and saying that he had to do more work after dinner. Haynes also played the small role of a fun kids character, appropriately called the Bumbiter.

Angela Gibson gave a discerning performance as Thomas’ very loving mother who tries to hide her husband’s cruelty from Thomas. She agrees to run a reading out loud ‘book club’ with next door neighbour Mrs van Amersfoort which gives her a bit of an emotional outlet. They end up reading out poems by the  legendary American poet Ogden Nash whose claim to fame was his wonderful collection. of humorous poems written in verse.  Oh, Ogden Nash. What a find!

Emily Perry gave a deft performance as Thomas’s  older sister Margot. At first Thomas thinks that she is ‘as dumb as an onion’ but grows to respect her, especially when she defends them against another assault by their father.

Katherine Bray gave an evocative performance as Eliza, one of Margot’s girlfriends whom Thomas likes. She has a disability, a leather leg that creaks, but Thomas likes her even more for it. It’s a lovely performance by Bray as she embodies her character’s vitality.

Suzy Wilds was great as next door neighbour Mrs van Amersfoort. She is a war survivor and is said to be a witch because she has such a touch nature She encourages Thomas in his mischief making. Wilde is excellent as this strong willed, eccentric character.

Karen Firmstone impressed in a mainly comic performance as a very playful female Jesus.

Kerry Turner was also suitably playful as Thomas’ good natured Auntie Pie.

Eleni Poulos and Margaret Short comprised the Ensemble.

The play ends on a light note with the characters, apart from of-course the hapless father, just wanting to have a bit of a fun.

THE BOOK OF EVERYTHING is playing the Arts Theatre, Cronulla until Saturday 3 September, 2022.

Performance times are:

Wednesday 24/8 8pm

Friday 26/8 8pm

Saturday 27/8 8pm

Sunday 28/8 2pm

Wednesday 31/8 8pm

Friday 2/9 8pm

Saturday 3/9 8pm

The Arts Theatre, Cronulla, established  in 1963, is located at 6 Surf Road, Cronulla.  Phone number – 95232799.