It’s no wonder ABC has a series that centres around young Evie Macdonald -she’s a star on the rise.
First Day is a 4 part series based on a one-off episode by Writer / Director Julie Kalceff (Starting from Now). It went on to win the prestigious Prix Jeunesse Gender Equity Prize at the MIPCOM Diversify TV Excellence Awards. And why wouldn’t it? This presents the topic of transitioning as a child in an utterly disarming way…
Hannah (Evie Macdonald) is about to have her first day of high school at Hillview High. Having endured bullying at primary school as Thomas, she is ready to make the change at her new school. But the shift won’t come easily.
While mum (Jo Hunt), dad (Mark Saturno) and teen brother Jack (Ethan Gifford) are all incredibly supportive of her identity, school principal (Anthony Brandon Wong) has a few conditions: he wants Hannah to use the sick bay toilets, at least for now.
For Hannah it’s a crushing blow and she fears it will only raise questions amongst her new school mates.
“I’m not a boy,” she insists. “I just want to be treated like everyone else.”
Despite her nerves, she bonds well on day one with Olivia (Elena Liu) and falls in with a small cluster of selfie-lovin’ girls. Teacher Ms. Fraser (Brenna Harding) also casts a watchful eye over the young Hannah, but trouble arises when she is recognised by a former primary student Isabella (Isabel Burmester).
Suddenly Hannah’s secret is at risk of becoming public, right at the time she wants to join in a sleepover with her new besties.
Julie Kalceff handles the conflict delicately, never speaking down to the audience. To do this she draws upon the sensitive talents of Evie Macdonald, who steps up to the demands of performing in every scene, and with beautiful nuance.
Even a scene with Hannah confiding in her friend is played without sensationalising the drama -and drawing upon a reference to Caitlyn Jenner.
At just 4 episodes, I don’t expect this to tackle its conflict beyond secrecy, nerves and peer group pressure -which is a bit of a shame. While all dramas need conflict it would be lovely to see this move beyond those around identity too, as Neighbours has managed to do with McKenzie (Georgie Stone).
This aside, the Adelaide-produced drama is the most inclusive, most authentic kid’s drama since Dance Academy.
14 years ago Play School caused an uproar when it featured two same-sex parents (trivia: they were Brenna Harding’s mums). Hopefully in 2020 we realise we are all facing much bigger battles than those around identity.
First Day is another example of why Children’s Television is so pivotal to our audiences, not just our production sector.
And Evie Macdonald is destined for big things.
First Day 4:30pm Monday – Friday on ABC ME.