Bush Theatre Spring 2019
The title of this play
by co-authors and co-directors Iseult Golden and David Horan is a
pun, as the play shows how a child's school problems expose social
gaps and tensions between his working class parents and middle class
A young male teacher
invites a boy's parents to a
conference. The boy has reading problems and the teacher suggests
having him tested for dyslexia or other issues, in order to find the
best way of helping him.
Throughout the play it
is absolutely and
unwaveringly clear that all three adults want what's best for the
boy. But their own issues keep getting in the way of their unity in
The parents are
separated, and every attempt to form a
united front gets lost in their power struggles and mutual blaming.
The teacher is unsure of himself, repeatedly misspeaking, hiding
behind jargon or otherwise putting his foot in his mouth in ways that
just make things worse.
(Alternating scenes of
the teacher tutoring
the boy and a girl student – played by the same actors who play the
parents – show him to be well-meaning but not really very good at
But larger and more
obstructive than the personal issues is
the class gap. Lifetimes of being made to feel inferior make the
parents finely attuned to anything that suggests a class insult, from
the teacher's educated vocabulary to what they see as patronisation
in his attempts to be clear. And, already having troubles with other
students and their parents, the teacher is unconsciously slipping
into a resentment of those who don't share his values.
The play is a
painfully convincing catalogue of ways one character or another can
say things in exactly the way another will take as an insult, and
attempts to find common ground will only drive them apart.
roles that could easily have become shallow stereotypes, Stephen
Jones and Sarah Morris effectively individualise and flesh out the
parents, he as a man of short fuse struggling admirably to change
himself and save his marriage, she as a woman first tasting
independence and freedom from the pressures of trying to keep the
peace with him.
And both show how
painful it is for them that their
own problems interfere with their absolute love for their son.
second roles as the young children amount to little more than gimmick
casting, never convincing us as children or offering much to the
introduces the teacher as a simple professional
and slowly and subtly lets the man crumble, as we see his confidence
fade and come to understand he has little to be confident about –
the main function of the scenes with the children is to show, with more
kindness and regret than criticism, his
limitations as a teacher.
There are no villains
here, just three
imperfect people whose combined inadequacies can do little to help
Class doesn't have a great deal that's new to tell, or much that you haven't probably seen on one TV soap or another. But it tells its story well, convinces you of its truth and holds your interest and sympathy through its uninterrupted 95 minutes.
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Review - Class - Bush Theatre 2019