Grab some sunglasses if they’re close by, because the glow on this review is going to be somewhat bright... and deservedly so. With the Opening Night show ending to a standing ovation and three curtain calls, this show is a must see during the Melbourne Festival. It is theatre in its purest form, delivered with passion, intelligence and integrity.
The plot of No Child... is pretty straightforward. A young female actor takes on the job of directing a class of unruly grade 10 students, from a tough New York school, in a play. The “passionate young teacher versus tough kids” story line is not a new one, but watching one actor flawlessly shifting amongst 16 characters of varying age and sex throughout the piece? Well. That’s something to behold. Nilaja Sun (who both wrote and performs the one woman show) is brilliant. Full stop. Her attention to detail with speech patterns, mannerisms and physicality of each character is awe inspiring. She is all at once hilarious, fascinating and heartbreaking to watch. Will she manage to win them over? Will the show go on? Sorry, no spoilers here folks.
Not just to be applauded for the quality of the show, the message of this piece is also incredibly important. With documentaries like Waiting for Superman highlighting that people are now fighting against an archaic system for a proper education, this tale again takes us into the overcrowded classroom; where children are all too readily slapped with a convenient label, and shunted into the “too hard basket”. Sun not only teaches the students in this tale - the audience are also schooled. It’s an important lesson, deftly delivered.
With a set consisting of four crappy looking chairs and a broom, this production is bare bones; relying on Sun to carry us all the way through... and she does. Boy, does she ever. Just go see it. Try not to miss it.
Theatre Works and Melbourne Festival present
Written and Performed by Nilaja Sun
Dates: 9 – 14 October, 2012
Venue: Arts Centre, Fairfax Theatre