Review: Child-ish

by Lynn on June 24, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

A web series streaming on

Created by Sunny Drake

Web series directed by Sunny Drake and Peter Riddihough

Cast: Raven Dauda

Sunny Drake

Sam Khalilieh

Jani Lauzon

Maria Ricossa

Child-ish is a deceptive title. It is because it sounds like ‘childish,’ suggesting ‘immature and silly.’ This show is anything but silly. Sunny Drake, writer-director-actor, created the show in which we hear the exact words of children about their lives and concerns, but said through the mouths of adults. Drake has been developing the show for four years.

It’s described this way: “Adults speak children’s exact words about love, life, and the world in this fresh verbatim work. Drawn from interviews with over 40 whip-smart and brutally honest children between the ages of 5 and 12-year-old, a dynamite adult cast allows an adult audience to hear kids’ ideas and experiences anew. The results are surprising, hilarious, and moving.”

I saw a workshop of Child-ish at SummerWorks in 2019 and loved it. The piece has grown. It’s now a 4-part web series, filmed out doors in and around a school yard and in an open field, but the premise is the same. We hear the kids’ words said by adult actors as they discuss, kissing, marriage, friendship, death, being shunned by a friend you trusted, climate change, racism and consent.

Drake’s intention was for the words of the kids to be said by adults and not the kids, because he wanted to see if having adults say the words change how we listen.  Do we listen and consider the words more seriously if it’s an adult saying them? The actors don’t perform their dialogue as if they are talking like kids. They say the lines seriously as adults. Perhaps it’s the knowledge that they are speaking for children that make us listen in a different way, more accommodating, more willing to suspend disbelief and accept that we are listening to the wit and wisdom of kids.

We’ve all heard the line, “out of the mouths of babes.” Kids are just funny and smart because they are so serious about what they think and how they express it. I’m old enough to remember Art Linkletter’s TV show, “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” Linkletter talked to and questioned a group of young kids and asked them serious questions and they answered seriously. Invariably they were hilarious answers but we considered and respected what they said. If an adult doesn’t think they can learn wise things from a kid, that adult is a fool.

How does Child-ish work as a web series? I think it works very well because the basic premise from the play is still there, even though I had reservations. As I said, kids are just naturally funny. Their observations are quirky to us but serious to them. They naturally frame their thoughts and observations in incongruous ways and that’s funny. Humour comes from juxtaposing the incongruous. And there are many more observations going on in this four-part series.

Each segment is about an emotion or an idea, like love and all that goes with it, death or loss etc. One segment involved a child who came with her family from Syria and all the difficulty that implied. There was a comment in the same segment about how land was stolen from people and children were taken from their families. The horrors of residential schools are uppermost in our minds of late so this sentence stuns.  This is very moving, and made more so because Jani Lauzon spoke the words. She is of Métis heritage and so the words have particular resonance. 

I loved Episode 3 entitled: You Need To Ask. As in, you need to ask someone if it’s ok to hug them, or kiss them; consent, in other words. Then there is the whole idea expressed by kids about not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings by saying NO! If someone wants to kiss the kid and asks but the kid doesn’t want to be kissed, will the person who wants to kiss them be mad at them and not be friends again? These are huge issues to kids (and adults, come to think of it).

But episode 4 is devastating in its pointedness. It’s called “HELLOOO!!” and it’s kids trying to get the attention of their parents and actually be seen. As in “HELLOOO!!! Get off your cell phone and listen to me!” One kid liked her mom before the mom got an iPhone.  Kids have a lot to say about this and attention must be paid.

The cast of five actors was wonderful, and putting them on swings, see-saws, in sand circles (enclosures) added to the notion they were in the kids’ world. Clever work by directors Sunny Drake and Peter Riddihough. Sunny Drake and Sam Khalilieh play quietly in a sand circle discussing important issues such as what they love in their world, thoughtfully and quietly. Raven Dauda expresses the hurt she feels when a boy she likes, named Antonio, says he doesn’t like her anymore— (there is a running motif of children looking into a toilet asking if Antonio is down there, because when a boy is that cruel, being flushed down the toilet seems fair). Jani Lauzon and Maria Ricossa go up and down on a see-saw, confiding. The camera takes a close-up of Lauzon’s boot and then Ricossa’s heeled shoe (both the kids’ world and the adult world meld in that camera shot).

As for my reservations about the streamed event…. Because I watched the ‘grand opening’ of the series there was all sorts of extra stuff that I found distracting or unnecessary.

I appreciated that a small selection of the 40 kids who were interviewed for the project over the years were represented on camera in various segments. We saw them individually express their gratitude at being included, seen and their opinion valued (lovely). I didn’t understand why most of them wore what looked like party hat/cones on their heads. That blurred the point of taking them seriously. Sunny Drake was in several shots sitting in a comfy chair looking out in a field trying to catch flipped pieces of popcorn in his mouth? Why? This looked childish, rather than child-ish. Odd.

There was a four-part section called “Questions for Adults” in which kids asked adults such questions as: “What would you name a unicorn?” “What makes you giggle?” Why is this here? What does it add?  I thought that was unnecessary, the point was confusing and distracted from the point of the series.

The cast of five actors was a cross-section of different ethnicities with two being perceived as white. I initially perceived that the children-co-hosts were majority white. I have been informed that four of the seven children-co-hosts are people of colour. I welcome the correction and the opportunity to address such an important subject. What a wonderful opportunity to bring kids of different ethnicities into the theatre through this project.

I did love the four episodes of the series. I think the project has grown and what it says about kids and their thoughts is important to hear.

Child-ish streams on

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