Redheaded Stepchild by Johnnie Walker
Publishing Date: October 6, 2016
Publisher: Playwrights Canada Press
The Premise from the Publisher: "Nicholas is a twelve-year-old with red hair whose dad just remarried. This makes Nicholas a literal redheaded stepchild. And tomorrow at lunch, the biggest boy in grade six plans to beat him up—he even made a Facebook event. Should Nicholas skip school, even if it means missing the chance to audition for the class play and impressing his English teacher Mr. Barton? His new stepmom, a chain-smoking, ex-Jehovah’s Witness golf pro named Mary-Anne doesn’t want him playing hooky. And Rufus Vermilion, Nicholas’s fabulous and charismatic alter ego, also has opinions about it. But when events in the schoolyard leave both Mary-Anne and Rufus speechless, it’s up to Nicholas to pick up the pieces and do some serious growing up" (PCP).
My overall thoughts and review: When I read the premise of this play on the Playwrights Canada Press website, I was instantly intrigued. The idea of a 12-year old child who has to deal with being a stepchild, wanting to audition for a school play, and deal with a bully? I knew I wanted to read this immediately. Nicholas has an alter-ego named Rufus, who is incredibly opinionated. The play opens up with Rufus, and he was hilarious and charming. He explains Nicholas' situation about wanting to avoid school the next day because a group of bullies (Ashton Maly) made a Facebook event to beat up Nicholas like a 'redheaded stepchild.' Unfortunately for Nicholas, he really wants to go to school because he wants to audition for a play and impress his teacher Mr. Barton. His step-mom, Mary-Anne doesn't think he should skip and sends him off to school knowing full well about the Facebook event to happen. The three characters: Nicholas, Rufus, and Mary, are all played by the same performer and when I was reading it, I had a bit of a hard time envisioning it, so I really would love to see it performed. I loved how it was a smooth transition between characters and each character had a very distinct voice. Even though it is a short play, I loved that Nicholas came to embrace himself for who he is, despite his red hair. In the audition, instead of reading Bottom's speech like he was planning to, he went for reading Helena's lines. I just love that he stuck to his guns and went to school. I also loved how Mary handled the situation when he got home and they bonded. It was a really sweet moment when he told Mary that she wasn't an evil-step mom. Overall, this was a really funny, charming, and sweet play. I especially appreciated the fact that the author wrote a foreword and introduction because it was interesting to learn about his inspirations behind the play. Walker refered to Rufus as Nicholas' Ziggy Stardust and I loved that. Regardless if you have red hair or not, I definitely think there's something to take away from the play and that is we have all felt different, or even bullied at some point. I completely empathized with Nicholas' story and also with Mary, who had to fill a new role. I really enjoyed this and I think readers of all ages will surely enjoy this one.
My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮ (4/5 stars)
Available for purchase at:
Playwrights Canada Press, Chapters/Indigo, Kobo Books, Amazon and Book Depository (Free Worldwide Shipping)
Disclaimer: A copy of the play was sent by Playwrights Canada Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions of the book are my own.