Trafalgar Studios, London – until 25 May 2019
One of the best things about Admissions at Trafalgar Studios is how far it will get up the noses of the ‘woke’ twitterati. I can think of a couple of agenda-toting print critics who’ll also be hammering their keyboards like warriors to be sneeringly unpleasant about the play.
It’s an annoyance to them because it’s a splendidly-written, designed, lit and acted play about white privilege: it has great production values, a recognisable cast, and is not performed by a worthily unpaid collective in some seedy dugout in Zone 4.
But for the most part, they’ll fume, it’s the wrong sort of play about the wrong sort of white privilege – because it so successfully revels in satirising the middle-class white liberal left.
Sherri (Alex Kingston) is a well-intentioned admissions officer in a New Hampshire secondary school, not quite Dead Poets Society, but definitely in an upmarket community. She’s trying hard to make sure their quota of non-white students steadily increases. There’s a great scene in which she berates Roberta (Margot Leicester) for failing to include enough variety in the photographs in the prospectus, till she rejects one mixed race student for ‘not really photographing black enough’.
Chaotic hypocrisy ensues when her own son fails to get a place at Yale while his equally-able mixed-race classmate does. Cue accusations of box-ticking and the whole family house of cards collapsing as the parents use their connections to get him in to a ‘good school’ while the son (Ben Edelman, ferocious but overdone) wants to go to – gasp – Community College and donate his tuition fees to a scholarship for a non-white kid.
There’s a nice glancing aside that the family is part-Jewish, and the parents’ immediate resorting to ‘who do we know who can intervene – don’t you have a cousin or something?’ feels like Joshua Harmon’s inference that Jewish ‘mutual preferment’ may be another side of the same coin.
Couldn’t be funnier, really, and nor could Harmon’s crackling script. Yes, it’s peppered with lengthy monologue diatribes and has the deliberate irony that the racial discussion is conducted only by white characters – but it has all the richness and contrarian excellence of his <a href=http://johnnyfox.co.uk/reviews/admissions-trafalgar-studios/ Jews.
Couldn’t be more timely either, as a slew of wealthy and celebrity types in the States – including Desperate Housewives‘ Felicity Huffman – <a href=http://johnnyfox.co.uk/reviews/admissions-trafalgar-studios/ accused of buying places at top universities.
It’s not the same system in the UK, but it’s still fun to watch.
Until 25 May