CHILD-ISH (Sunny Drake and the CHILD-ISH Collective) 2019 SummerWorks Review

Actors from CHILD-ISH at SummerWorks 2019 A man and a child stand side by side holding long stemmed roses and staring wide-eyed at the camera

CHILD-ISH, a work-in-progress play by Sunny Drake and The CHILD-ISH Collective is playing at the 2019 SummerWorks Festival. If you’re missing school over the summer, or the child-like wonder of your youth, this one’s for you. It’s fun, silly, earnest and heartfelt, and gives voice to the unbridled curiosity and wisdom of children.

Watching this play felt like I was bearing witness to a sacred concrete covenant: the rapid-fire conversations that happen between children, free to play during recess. In actuality, playwright Sunny Drake spent the last two and a half years interviewing 33 children, ranging from ages 5 to 11, about love and dating. The play takes verbatim quotes from their responses and threads them together to present cohesive reflections. The children’s responses, arranged into a script, were performed on stage by a cast of 5 adult actors.

As someone who does not frequently interact with children at length, hearing their responses in their own words was delightful. I was struck by how refreshingly honest and open they were. They spoke freely about what love feels like and shared their thoughts on a variety of topics. Things like marriage, the idea of loving more than one person at a time, asking for consent, enduring heartbreak and loss, and their concepts of life after death. While their responses were punctuated by bouts of silliness, they were also smart, informed and compassionate.

The cast performing on stage gave great body to the children’s words. As this play is being presented as part of SummerWorks Lab programming, it’s still under development. The cast had their scripts on stage, and the final section of the play has not yet been formed. That said, the cast delivered spirited performances of the material developed thus far, and brought the source material to life. They were emotive and agile, oscillating between the perspectives of various different children. Hats off to Walter Borden and Sonny Mills, who were especially hilarious to watch.

CHILD-ISH is a wonderful reminder of how freely children think, play and love. It was a real treat to see this play as it currently exists, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

This review is a snapshot of the first performance of a work-in-progress. The production is one of several pieces at the festival presented as part of the SummerWorks Lab programming introduced in 2018. The participants in SW Lab are still in the development process and will continue to evolve throughout the festival.


CHILD-ISH is playing at the the Theatre Centre Franco Boni Theatre (1115 Queen Street West).


  • Thursday August 8th 6:30pm – 7:45pm
  • Monday August 12th 6:30pm – 7:45pm
  • Wednesday August 14th 8:30pm – 9:45pm

Warnings: Audience participation and mature themes

Information on Tickets and Passes:

SummerWorks tickets uses a Pay What You Decide system for every show: $15, $25, or $35, whichever suits your budget. All tickets are general admission and there are no limits to any price level.

Advance tickets are available up until 3 hours before show time and can be purchased as follows: Online, using the Buy Ticket link found on every show page; In person at the main SummerWorks Festival Box Office the Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West) – open August 8-18 from 12pm-8pm. Tickets purchased in advance are subject to a convenience fee of $2.50/ticket. Any remaining tickets will be made available for sale at the performance venue starting 1 hour before show time. Venue box offices accept cash only.

Money saving passes are available if you are planning on seeing at least 4 shows.

Photo of Sunny Drake and Eponine Lee by Graham Isador, designed by Deanna Peters