Where was the element of originality?
Education dominates the headlines. In the recent General Election we saw once again how much it matters. Right across the media spectrum from league tables to tuition fees, not to mention teachers' pay, the private v public sector – education is rarely far away from the headlines.
But quite whether Tamsin Oglesby's – what can you call it? – "play", "essay", "observation" or "confused dogma" -ever really gets to the nub of what really matters as far as education concerned is a moot point.
At times I was uncomfortable. Satire, when you are laughing with someone is very different to laughing at someone.
The theatre in the round – nothing new at the Old Vic – provided a flexible working space for a large company who, to their credit, did the script reasonably proud. But that wasn't enough.
Even the scene changes were mightily predictable. Electric guitars, a chair, a table, a rucksack. Just moved around. Lights up. And off again. Time and time again.
What irked me most was the juxtaposition two well known television formats.
First, a very poor version of a kind of The Catherine Tate Show [the parents' playground scenes where mothers [and a father] argued via strong characterisation of various stereotypes. But do these shouting, overacted interactions add anything? Is the cacophony of issues raised by the parents really that funny? I couldn't laugh, not even once – much though I tried to – because the pain of wanting the best for your child is a shockingly stressful and sacrificial pilgrimage for many parents I know.
Some of the characterisations [the Essex girl, for instance] grated to the point of repetetive watch staring. I had seen this too many times before [Little Britain etc]. Where was any element or originality?
And secondly,as educational but much poorer version of W1A – the parody of the BBC of an institution – but here it is an education committee [the name of which escapes me] once again trying to raise a smile out of the kind of ridiculous phrases and contradictions which W1A does so well defying you to laugh at loud. The fact is that whilst these committee scenes were some of the better ones in this production I couldn't wait for them to move on.
New artistic director Matthew Warchus probably knows he will have to come up with something more profound and thought provoking than this. It is just a start and it did feel different. As indeed it is the beginning of a new school term at The Old Vic, we have to give him the benefit of the doubt that in trying to be so different this opening glimpse of an increasingly vexed world of education failed, as far as this pupil is concerned, to get a good report.
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