Review: ‘Class’ by Iseult Golden and David Jordan – Bush Theatre8:14, 11th May 2019
There was an audible groan in the audience when Will O’Connell as teacher Mr McCafferty said ‘The thing is, I think these classes are a good thing. And I think they are helping. But I made a mistake because I didn’t fill out all the forms that I should have to keep students back after class. So we have to stop.’
Class, Iseult Golden and David Jordan’s new play about a parent-teacher meeting that gets horribly out of hand, is an interesting, at times funny, at others uncomfortable look at our interactions with the education system. The separated parents of a nine year old boy are called in to meet his teacher and talk about test results which indicate possible dyslexia. Their reactions to the suggestion of a consultation with an educational psychologist are those of a pair of adults whose own learning difficulties at school were the source of deep insecurities. It’s as much about adult male mental health as it is about the line a teacher must sometimes tread between safeguarding and interference.
The play alternates between scenes in which Stephen Jones and Sarah Morris play Brian and Donna, the parents of nine year-old Jayden, and scenes which depict the homework club Mr McCafferty instigates to help Jayden and another student, Kaylie, with their reading. Jones and Morris shift from adult to nine year old in moments, and both performances are really touching: it’s a lovely depiction of the trust that can arise between teacher and student, particularly when life is complicated for the child at home. There are equally touching moments in the scenes where they play adults and the play’s structure is a clever conceit which allows the audience to contemplate the thread between childhood emotions and the childlike behaviour displayed by adults, particularly in moments of vulnerability.
My only reservation with the play is its length: while it doesn’t struggle to hold the audience’s attention for an hour and 35 minutes straight through, it does at several points lead one to wonder, when tensions are running high, or extremely personal conversations are being had in front of a total stranger, why any of the three adults remain in the room for as long as they do. There are a number of instances when one or the other of the characters asks whether they shouldn’t perhaps finish this another time, and it wasn’t an objection that was ever quite satisfactorily answered.
Class continues at the Bush Theatre, Shepherd’s Bush, until 1 June, with a post-show Q&A on 16 May. For more information and to book tickets go to https://www.bushtheatre.co.uk/event/class/