Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Thursday, 16 May 2013
No Child... May 7-19, 2013 *****+
By Nilaja Sun Theatre Works, May 7 to 19, 2013 (see on Oct 9, 2012, & May 15, 2013) Stars: 5 +
I saw Nilaja's show again today and, once again, makes me laugh and cry and admite every cell of her creative self. When I left the theatre last yer and again today, i could have watched it all over again immediately - twice!
See below for my 2012 review which ran only on this blog, not in Herald Sun. KH
Presented by Theatre Works, Melbourne Festival & Brisbane Festival
Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, Oct 9 to 14, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 9, 2012
Stars:***** (I'd give it more if I could)
THE ENTIRE AUDIENCE LEAPT
TO ITS FEET AS ONE at the end of No Child... by Nilaja Sun. This is one of
those rare, theatrical jewels that is so perfectly wrought in every way that it
is impossible to fault.
Sun may be alone on
stage, but she transforms herself, and transports us into another world,
populating the empty space with a parade of eccentric, vividly painted
characters, all students and staff at a dysfunctional, uptown New York High
award-winning performance, directed by Hal Brooks, is a testament to Sun’s
theatrical skills as both a writer and a performer, and it balances hilarious,
observational character comedy with poignant commentary on the failure of the
US public education system to cater for these needy teenagers from Brooklyn.
Miss Sun (a version of
the actor herself) is a teaching artist who ambitiously enters Malcolm X High
to work with challenging Year 10s to stage a theatrical production of Our
Country’s Good, an Australian play about convicts and freedom that is strangely
relevant to the kids.
Sun metamorphoses into a
limping old man, Janitor Barron, who narrates the story and engages directly
with the audience, describing the world of the school and commenting on its
shortcomings and peculiarities.
Every teacher’s heart
aches for poor Miss Tam, the shy, new teaching recruit who is trampled by the
belligerent students, and we are initially horrified by the behaviour of tough,
Latino Jose, the uncontrolled outbursts of hyped-up, 18 year-old Jerome, and
the seductive sass of Sandrika, the class vamp.
Sun’s timing and delivery
are impeccable, her characters uncannily accurate and complete, and her social
She shifts between
characters in a nanosecond, transforming from a West Indian security guard, to
brisk Miss Kennedy the principal, to Phillip, the lad, with an impenetrable
speech impediment, Chris the awkward geek, then into a girl with rasping
The successes and
failures of the students’ production are reflected in the kids’ lives, the
world of the school and the broader community. But the show must go on, and
there is a heart-breaking scene when Jerome arrives too late to play his
perfectly rehearsed role.
Sun’s performance is not
only inspired, solo theatre, but it is also an indictment of the American
education system and resonates with those of us who believe that our Australian
system is failing our kids too.