There is nothing in this life that terrifies me more than the concept of public speaking! I don’t know what it is about the idea of standing up in front of large crowd of people and sharing a pre-prepared presentation or speech but it just makes me extremely anxious. Despite how many times I tell myself that nothing there is very little that can actually go wrong, I still struggle to overcome the fear-inducing moment before I start delivering your carefully rehearsed speech. As a high-school English teacher, I have had to prepare classes of young learners to deliver vital presentations of front of their peers where they are assessed on how effectively they present. It seems that young people also share my fear of public speaking and so I have to constantly coach them into acting confident while in front of the class which is a lot of difficult than one may anticipate. Considering my own fear of public speaking I have to really overcompensate to try and convince learners that it’s not as scary as they anticipate! When my kids finally get to the presentation stage they have spent months carefully selecting each word to use, the literary techniques (and how to make them the most effective), commuting the speech to memory and considering any props/hand gestures etc which all contribute to their overall grade. They have had months of preparation and creation of a plethora of techniques and tools to keep the audience’s interest.
However, for this initial reading of “The power of O” Olivia Nguyen simply had herself and a copy of the script to keep the audience entertained. When have reviewed many one-person plays and are always impressed when a singular person is able to maintain the audience’s attention throughout but being able to do so after stripping away the use of props, movement, and sound effects are a whole other ball game! Olivia was able to simply share the script on her own (while filling in stage directions) and help keep the audience focused throughout the whole show. This took on an almost table-read style format but instead simply with one person reading to help promote the show and build excitement for when it is properly staged. This brand new one-woman play titled “The power of O” is a semi-autobiographical account of Olivia’s experience during high school and her journey to overcome both prejudice and general high school life. The story documents the life of our lead character who experiences horrible comments from her peers (and teachers) due to having Autism. It is a heartbreaking and honest exploration of what our SEN (special education needs) children experience every day in school which as a teacher honestly breaks my heart. I don’t think people outside of the education sphere understand how vicious and cruel young people can be especially to those who have any sort of educational need. These upsetting scenes are depicted in the script through the repeated use of voice-over that spits out hateful things towards our lead character which I assume are terribly phrased that Olivia herself has had shouted at her in the past!
As the focus of this reading is one of the scripts itself, it goes without saying that the highlight was the clever use of language throughout the show. In particular, Olivia has managed to master the art of metaphors and is able to use them to allow the audience to understand the feelings or experiences of our lead character. The experience of being bullied is likened to being in a car crash as both experiences leave the victim with a series of scars. A car crash leaves someone with scar on their head whereas these bullies leaves scars on a person heart that never truly heal. Similar the compassions between bully and dodgeball is made both of which cause pain but at least with the latter a person can see the attacks coming. Finally, the clever metaphor of school life being like a banana split is made where there are loads of sweet experiences but the nuts added can add an uncomfortable crunch. These three experiences (namely a car crash, dodgeball and the dessert) are all very familiar to an wide range of ages which means that any person in the audience would be able to appreciate and understand what is metaphysically being said about bullying. While many people are aware of some of the damage that bullying can cause, I don’t think people appreciate how these incidents can affect victims in the long term which is why I personally found the car crash analogy to be particularly powerful! The show does contain a very vivid depiction of violence which does mean that it would be be advised for a younger audience but apart from this demographic it is a show that is accessible to wide range of people. I also found that the repeated scenes involving our lead character recording letters to the school (which depicted her experiences, struggles and triumphs) to be very powerful and helped to remind everyone that ASD (autism spectrum disorder) does not mean that people cannot achieve incredible things!
Overall, this was a firm first exposure to “the power of O” that helps the audience to understand the importance of being kind to one another. The real-life implications make for a very powerful experience and having them read out by the person who has documented them adds a wonderful layer of emotion. The play also allows for an underrepresented minority (those with ASD) to feel represented and seen which can only have positive effects to those within that community. This is a solid foundation of a play that I cannot wait to see grow in the coming years! I would rate this show 3.5 stars out of 5!