REVIEW: ADMISSIONS (Trafalgar Studios) ★★★
March 14, 2019  //  By:   //  Plays, Reviews  //  Comments are off

White guilt, privilege and discrimination all come under the microscope in Joshua Harmon‘s Admissions. The play centres around Sherri (Alex Kingston), the Head of Admissions at an elite American private school, fighting to diversify the student body.

The problem comes when her son Charlie (Ben Edelman) doesn’t get into his university of choice, but his mixed-race best friend does. What follows is an equally amusing and disturbing fifteen-minute-long vitriol of white victimhood from a 17-year-old boy who is convinced that his whiteness has deprived him of a seat ‘at the table’.

Andrew Woodall, who gives an excellent performance as Sherri’s husband Bill, acts as the voice of reason and strongly rebukes his child’s delusions, but Sherri’s personal ambition collides with her ‘progressive’ values.

After several long and repetitive rants, Charlie transitions from victim to white saviour and concocts a way of exposing the hypocrisy his parents. Edelman’s performance is convincing, but Harmon’s script, though filled with snappy lines, becomes increasingly uncomfortable, making this comedy quite hard to laugh at.

However, Margot Leicester as Roberta, a member of Sherri’s development team, does provide some comic relief in a hilarious scene in which she unpicks Sherri’s liberal façade when describing the trials of including diversity in a school prospectus with so few minority students.

She and Kingston play off each other perfectly. Indeed Kingston, though evidently the lead, makes this play feel like an ensemble piece with her skilful interactions with all of her co-stars. Though she really comes into her own when she is able to unleash Sherri’s inner turmoil.

Sarah Hadland also shines as Ginnie Peters, the mother of Charlie’s friend and Sherri’s betrayed friend, who has slightly more understanding of the devastating effects of racial discrimination.

While a perfectly engaging piece of theatre with a stellar cast, something about the play feels wrong. A story about faux ‘woke-ness’, (people of colour, though often mentioned, are noticeably absent), told by an all-white cast to a sea of white faces in the audience, makes this show feel almost a part of the problem it professes to be shining a light on.

Reviewed by Ben McDonald
Photo: Johan Persson

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