Peter Helliar: The Complete History of Better Books at The Forum

By Lucinda Naughton


Peter Helliar’s The Complete History of the ‘Better Books’ is a very funny, enjoyable and surprisingly nostalgic experience. Helliar shares his collection of short stories from his school days called Better Books, which he started writing from the age of eight. Helliar shows where his creativity and love for writing and making people laugh began, insightfully and hilariously illuminating to us how he came to be the best-selling comedian and author we know today. Kids and adults alike will enjoy Helliar’s stories and his introductions and comical explanations of their inspirations.


I found this approach of showing his backstory very Australian in its honest and relatable nature; it is quite understatedly inspiring. I enjoyed how easily he draws attention to his stories’ lack of skill, character development, and plot holes. Helliar keeps his audience engaged through fast-paced reading, stopping at the good (or bad) parts, for instance, he pauses in the middle of a sentence to comment, “It’s hard to follow who’s talking”. He makes fun of expressions he used, such as “I wiped the smile off my face”, and is very self-aware, stating that the pieces aren’t exactly good, but he creatively makes them into to a very entertaining show.


The set adds to the nostalgic atmosphere of delving back in history. Helliar sits in a comfortable lounge chair under a lamp that pools light and a sense of warmth and homeliness to read his long-ago written stories. A projector behind him depicts the pages as he reads them, as well as the hilarious illustrations he did when he was a kid, and childhood photos, adding a great visual element to the show and making the experience even more personally revealing.


For Helliar’s final story, A Waste of a Hotdog, he doesn’t have the actual hard-copy, but recounts anyway it in great detail. He explains that as a kid he was appalled by the miscarriage of justice (that someone knocked the hotdog out of his hands), and how he ended up writing a story about it at school, which he enjoyed as his friends found very funny.


This is how his writing career began. Helliar explains that writing always makes himself feel better and encourages the audience to write about everything, leaving his performance on a very encouraging note, which I really admired: “Just keep writing”.


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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.

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