FUTURE CONDITIONAL – Old Vic

In London theatre, Plays, Reviews by Libby PurvesLeave a Comment

★★★
The Old Vic Theatre, London – until 3 October 2015

GUEST CRITIC LUKE JONES (genuine 21st century school leaver..) ENJOYS THE MENTAL MUMS
With the news we’ve been having this week, a play about education policy may seem a little lightweight. For most of the first half it was. But the play pulls that neat Love Actually trick. Tedious for the most part, yet satisfying in the end. Little sense, little structure, little point, but plenty of character and warming comedy. Its arguments are highly worn, but it has wheeled out engaging and intriguing characters to tell them to us again.

Education is the primary concern of the play, although curiously there are no children. Instead the Tamsin Oglesby’s play gets lost in the fringes, separate side shows. We see only one character, who is an actual child, being educated. Nikki Patel, who, I am surprised to hear, makes her professional stage debut, gives a mightily strong and funny warmth to Alia, a young Pakistani girl breaking through to Oxbridge against the odds. A part that could be trite is witty and eventually moving.

The rest is extremely well played, peppered with top gags but largely directionless and inconsequential.

Three sections. Teacher, mums, education policy wonks.

The first, Rob Brydon’s bit, is fine. But he barely appears. Most of his scenes, despite being set in a bustling classroom full of rowdy, cheeky and undoubtedly (we’ll never know) witty school children, is played solo. Just him. Talking to student-sized gaps in the air. The little he is given echoes around the lonely stage, lacking dynamism in spite of the reasonable performance. Too late into the 2 hours he’s given dialogue, and it finally comes alive.

A diverse range of mental mum is fully on show. A playground plagued by desperate attempts to get the best school place for their kids. Most scream, one drinks, the other pretends to divorce her husband to move him out into a better catchment area. In this, Lucy Briggs-Owen, the stand-out star, gives a jolly masterclass as the frantic, posh, Scottish mum driven to obsession. Her performance , as usual, is detailed, hilarious and completely recognisable (sorry mum).

The final bunch – a gaggle of policy wonks, is the dullest. As it cuts between its three parts, with Alia peppered across a couple, I felt my shoulders droop and my eyes drift as I recognised their flipboard being wheeled on. The dialogue, save for a few jokes at the chubbier one’s expense, is entirely made up of cutouts from newspaper leaders, prit-sticked together into a make-your-own argument collage.

I would have thought Matthew Warchus’ first play as head honcho would have had more bite. It is a good comedy, with sharp, colourful design. But perhaps we needed something shocking. Not something which is on the one hand this and on the other hand that. Not something we nod along to and moments later forget.

3 Mice

Until 3rd October

Box Office: 0844 871 7628

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Libby Purves
Libby Purves was theatre critic for The Times from 2010 to 2013. Determined to continue her theatre commentary after losing that job, she set up her own site www.theatrecat.com in October 2013. She personally reviews all major London openings, usually with on-the-night publication, and also gives voice to a new generation of critics with occasional guest 'theatrekittens'. In addition to her theatre writing and myriad other credits, Libby has been a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek for over 30 years. She is also the author of a dozen novels, and numerous non-fiction titles. In 1999, Libby was appointed an OBE for services to journalism.
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Libby Purves on RssLibby Purves on Twitter
Libby Purves
Libby Purves was theatre critic for The Times from 2010 to 2013. Determined to continue her theatre commentary after losing that job, she set up her own site www.theatrecat.com in October 2013. She personally reviews all major London openings, usually with on-the-night publication, and also gives voice to a new generation of critics with occasional guest 'theatrekittens'. In addition to her theatre writing and myriad other credits, Libby has been a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek for over 30 years. She is also the author of a dozen novels, and numerous non-fiction titles. In 1999, Libby was appointed an OBE for services to journalism.

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