A play about education starting in September, the beginning of the new school year, this play seems especially timely. One of the strands follows the story of Nikki Patel’s Alia, a refugee from Pakistan cherishing her opportunity to access the UK education system in a school where this makes her a minority. As an outsider looking in to a system that can be confusing at best, and unfair at its worst, Alia is able to ask probing questions born from her naivety.
There are two further tales woven through this play; a committee of civil servants tasked with reviewing the UK education system to come up with a proposal to improve it and a group of parents navigating secondary school choices as their children approach the end of their primary schooling. A debate on the Oxbridge entry system is thrown in for good measure; Joshua McGuire reprises his well-rehearsed ‘posh boy’ role from Posh and Riot Club to good effect here.
As the posters show, Brydon is clearly the star casting. If you’ve come hoping to see Uncle Bryn from Gavin & Stacey or Brydon as stand up comedian then prepare to be disappointed; while the accent remains, this role is much more serious.
Brydon is well cast as the inspirational teacher seen mostly through monologues; however the real stars are the young actors who surround him, switching easily between roles and managing to be convincing in them all.
The cast enter in single file, wearing blazers and playing recorders; we’re definitely in school. The musical accompaniment is provided by two guitar players in the boxes above the stage channelling school band members. The simple set works well in the round; the actors move tables and chairs to create classroom, meeting room, coffee shop and the school playground.
This play was far more emotional than I was expecting it to be. It addresses important issues with skill and carried me along with the multiple story strands until the end. There were empty seats on the evening I went; I hope that they will fill as word spreads about this production.
Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
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