In Class, writer Iseult Golden cleverly brings the universal experience of the classroom which traverses cultures and generations to the stage tackling the double meaning of “class” head on, namely the classroom and the working-class experience of middle-class educators. But it isn’t just the children at the centre of this classroom drama, it’s also the adults - parents and teacher alike.
When estranged parents Donna and Brian (Sarah Morris and Stephen Jones) meet their nine-year old son’s teacher, the raw emotions of their recent separation resurface together with unhappy school memories.
The teacher at the centre of all this, Mr McCafferty, is perfectly played with unassuming earnestness by Will O’Connell. McCafferty’s endeavours to enlist Donna and Brian’s support in helping their son is challenged beyond endurance with some aggression by Brian who reels against sending his boy to see an educational psychologist. Despite his strategies to manage his anger, Brian sees the whole thing as class warfare as he relives own struggles at school. Mr McCafferty, however well-intended, is the overeducated enemy. Emotions unravel as Donna, the placating mother, cannot suppress her increasing need to escape a controlling marriage.
Written and directed by Iseult Golden and David Horan
Cast: Stephen Jones, Sarah Morris and Will O’Connell (Photos Helen Murray)
Admittedly, there are some leaps of faith and loose ends in the story line: the implications of Mr McCafferty’s transgression are not fully explored; Brian’s fate seems almost a side-line when it could be the beginning of another act. But, Class wins through in many ways, not least the engaging device of using grown-ups to play children. The actors manage this with just the right amount of verve as they switch from scene to scene, playing adult, then child.
Despite his size, Stephen Jones embodies the persona of Jayden, a goofy kid thrilled to sharpen his pencil and sit in the teacher’s chair. Sarah Morris plays his classmate, a chirpy girl whose mother struggles with addiction. Skipping and prattling like a nine-year old chatting to a friendly grownup, she confesses so much more than she realises. Indeed, Class resounds for everyone, whatever side of the desk, with wit and insight.
7 May – 1 June 2019 at the Bush Theatre, 7 Uxbridge Road, London, W12 8LJ
London Theatre of the Year (The Stage)