Skip to content


Bashir Lazhar
Published on Saturday, 13 August 2011

5 stars

Assembly George Square (venue website)
3-7, 9-14, 16-21, 23-27 Aug, 2:25pm-3:30pm; 28 Aug, 2:25pm-3:25pm
Reviewed by Miriam Vaswani

 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.

The story of Bashir Lazhar is a flawlessly paced, cleverly written and beautifully acted production.  Lazhar is an Algerian immigrant teaching a group of Montreal schoolchildren who’ve witnessed a traumatic event, but he too lives with his own tragic past and uncertain present.

Michael Peng’s performance as Lazhar, an enthusiastic teacher who is undermined by all but his young students, gracefully and convincingly shifts between many moods: his frustrating daily reality, his troubling past, and the pleasure and comfort he takes in his work.

The central themes of identity and loss are expertly unravelled, while the blunt injustices the central character experiences as an immigrant – politically and professionally – are echoed by the unwillingness of all but Lazhar to engage in plain discourse with his young students.

His appreciation of both their right to be heard, and their right to be children, echoes his own tragic yet common story, which unfolds alongside the details of the violent event witnessed by his young students. Meanwhile the two actors, Peng and Kimberley McLeod, echo one another in a performance which is in equal measures physical and verbal.

The stage design is simple and clever. Every surface becomes a chalkboard; floor, wall, table, chairs and Lazhar himself. Complex ideas are simply conveyed with everyday items such as a scarf, or a jacket. In short, this is amongst the best plays I’ve seen at the festival – for its professionalism, sensitivity, simplicity and wealth of talent.

<< The Strange Undoing of Pr...   My Big Gay Italian Weddin... >>