REVIEW: CLASS (Bush Theatre) ★★★★
The title of this extremely clever and thought provoking, one act play, is doubly apt; while it is set in a school classroom and covers both after school reading classes with two pupils in need of extra tuition and a fraught parent-teacher meeting after school, it is also a thought provoking and empathetic look at the effect historic and ingrained snobbery has on human relations and actions.
Will O’Connell (as teacher Ray McCafferty) has the unenviable task of explaining to estranged parents Stephen Jones and Sarah Morris as Brian and Donna that their child Jayden needs extra tuition due to his learning difficulties or “differences” which due to their own experience of school does not go down well.
Indeed, it only serves to exacerbate their blame and guilt as parents that aren’t ontop of things, and highlight the breakdown in their own relationship and lack of communication-set against a backdrop of their own bad experience of school and it’s perceived failings.
The paranoia that they are perceived as lower class, unintelligent and uninvolved parents, heightens the tension and they are unreceptive to the teacher’s effort to try to help to improve Jayden’s lot; they push Ray to act out of character and the irony is that in his attempts to overcome the system by going above and beyond to help he innocently, makes things much worse with tragic consequences.
All three actors are extremely empathetic and watchable, with Stephen Jones and Sarah Morris effortlessly switching from portraying both the discordant parents and their nine year old son Jayden and classmate Kaylie with truth, comedy and pathos; indeed Sarah in particular captures the quirks and characteristics of a child while never once straying into caricature territory and it is easy to believe that the actors are both parent and child in the relevant scenes.
The play is mostly comic and the dramatic and ultimately tragic end leads us as an audience to a sense of futility and a wonder, whether the school system can ever really work for those born into less fortunate circumstances, and indeed if we can ever truly escape both our own and others’ perceptions of what we deserve and will become in life. It is thought provoking but sad, as there is no answer.
With an extremely effective set by Maree Kearns and clever new writing by Iseult Golden and David Horan, at 95 minutes I did feel perhaps the piece would benefit from an interval as the play itself was very much a play of two halves with it’s descent into tragedy from the observational humour at it’s start; but this is a minor complaint of what is essentially an exciting and evocative piece of new theatre.
Reviewed by Nicole Faraday
Photo: Helen Murray
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