It was a pleasure to watch this much-hyped solo play, written and performed by Nijala Sun, who is about to make it big in Hollywood. When theatre is talked about this much, it’s easy to worry that it won’t meet expectations, but in this case those fears proved to be unfounded.
I genuinely cried and laughed during the performance – a comedic but also reflective view of the American school system in poorer areas of New York surrounding a ‘play within a play within a play’. Sun brought an amazing energy to the stage and frequently made eye contact with members of the audience, which was initially unnerving but succeeded in drawing the audience quickly into the emotions of the play.
My only criticism is that the concept of a motivated teacher saving ‘bad kids’ is very familiar; we’ve seen it in Dangerous Minds and Sister Act 2 just to name a couple of examples. With a full cast of characters, this play might not have been so stimulating but the fact that Sun plays all these different parts makes it exceptional.
There is no denying Sun’s acting talent – she plays all ages, nationalities (including Asian and Russian at certain points!) and sizes (from tiny to fat) – and at points switching between all the class members every second with nothing but a change of pose or accent. I was particularly impressed with the school custodian (who fills an almost narrator role), Miss Sun (the teacher artiste) and with Jerome. Looking at Sun playing the janitor, you genuinely believe that you’re looking at an old man who limps along after devoting his life to the school – although some of his narratives were a little lengthy when you really wanted to get back into the classroom and hang out with Jerome, a larger than life rebel who had struggled through school with a bad attitude.
Despite a couple of detracting points, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance. Sun received a standing ovation from the audience – who could not be further in terms of background from the characters she is portraying – and the fact that her show was sold out speaks volumes when there is so much competition at the Fringe. I look forward to seeing Sun on the big screen in the future, and there is no doubt she is a talent to watch.
Assembly @ George St, 5-30 Aug (not 9, 23), 2.20pm