Education, education, education – or results, results, results?
It’s exam season in a fee-paying London secondary school: due to a timetable clash, a group of 11 students are being held in isolation in the music room to avoid the risk of cheating. With an hour to wait until their exam starts and no sign of their supervising teacher, it doesn’t take long for everything to unravel. Jonathan Lewis’ new play explores the darker side of education, grades and just how far schools will go to hold their position in the league tables. In Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, the focus is on well-rounded knowledge; A Level Playing Field is its antithesis, with the kids being groomed in exam technique and staff bonuses riding on the outcome. Amongst the chaos and anxiety, it is both profound and savagely funny.
In the intimacy of the Jermyn Street Theatre, we are practically in the classroom ourselves, which has been liberally wallpapered in photocopies of Nicholas Cage’s maniacal grin – a riff on them being “caged” for an hour – by the reckless Aldous (Jack Bass). With such a large cast, we are thankfully introduced to a few characters at a time, getting to know who they really are in little break out soliloquies. These rhythmic personal statements snap back and forth mid-sentence between earnestly polite and darkly cynical, each with a music soundtrack to match the student.
My ticket was courtesy of Bargain Theatre. To read the review in full, please click here.
A Level Playing Field is on until Saturday 9th May 2015 at Jermyn Street Theatre, 16b Jermyn Street, London, SW1Y 6ST. Contains strong language. Cigarettes are smoked during the performance. For tickets and more information, go to http://www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk/whatson.html#alevelplayingfield