Bush Theatre, London – 1 June 2019
Brian (Stephen Jones) and Donna (Sarah Morris) are separated but having to put on a united front for the sake of their nine-year-old son Jayden who is having problems at school. They’ve been called in to see Jayden’s teacher Mr McCafferty (Will O’Connell) but classrooms hold bad memories for both of them.
As Mr McCafferty nervously broaches the subject of Jayden’s learning difficulties feathers are ruffled and someone shows they have a chip on their shoulder. Set entirely in Jayden’s classroom, the walls a tempting chalkboard, sitting on the little chairs literally and figuratively brings the adults down to a child’s level.
Writers Iseult Golden and David Horan break up the meeting by jumping forward to the week afterwards where Jayden and another pupil Kaylie are having extra after-school tutoring with Mr McCafferty. Jones and Morris also play the kids, using a slightly exaggerated, floppy, energy and their child-like observations hint at what is to unfold during the meeting between the adults.
Class layers marital tensions with social class tensions and the pressures of being a teacher and learning. Parental concern about Jayden being stigmatised for being treated differently quickly turns into accusations of class prejudice which in turn reveals more about personal insecurities. While Mr MCafferty is clumsy in the way he expresses himself, the allegation that he is looking down on Brian and Donna because of their backgrounds feels hollow.
We discover that he was concerned enough to investigate a child’s extended absence and he seems genuinely interested in getting the right help for Jayden. Brian and Donna have fun moments of teasing and banter but tensions lead to bickering and then full blown arguments which quickly start to go over familiar ground. An uglier side to Brian is revealed which earns little sympathy.
But while the ending is ultimately tragic my sympathy lay with the kids on the periphery of the story who are being held back by circumstances beyond their control.
Jayden is lucky, Brian and Donna are interested in his education and do make an effort but Kaylie’s mum can’t help with her school work and the parents of absent Tommy just don’t care.
Sometimes funny and witty, occasionally tense, Class draws few conclusion and while the drama is in the classroom it feels like its weight lies outside.
It is 95 minutes long without an interval and I’m giving it three and a half stars. See it at the Bush Theatre until June 1.
Current theatre recommendations:
Off West End – Half God of Rainfall, Kiln Theatre – basketball battles and a mother’s love ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
West End – All My Sons, Old Vic (and NT Live screening) – gripping emotional thriller ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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