by Barrie Keeffe.
Riverside Studios (Studio 3) Crisp Road W6 9RL To 19 March 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 2.45pm.
Runs 1hr No interval.
TICKETS: 020 8237 1111.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 12 March.
Explosive drama adds to West London’s current education debate.
Six years before the Falklands War (and in another world) Barrie Keeffe’s play made the tiny Soho Poly stage a frighteningly claustrophobic chamber, its impact increased by following the measured arguments of Brian Clark’s Campion’s Interview, where a headteacher justifies his running of a school.
So Keeffe’s tense drama has nothing to do with tabloid use of ‘Gotcha’ as a triumphalist Falklands headline. On his last day at secondary school a pupil who’s achieved nothing at, nor gained anything from, education collects his older brother’s motor-bike from the store where he’s left it.
There he finds two canoodling teachers. Everyone smokes in this play, and as Keeffe has contrived to have the bike’s fuel-cap removed, the pupil holds them hostage, threatening to drop a lighted fag into the petrol.
Though he couldn’t dramatically, without ending the play prematurely, this boy’s so wound-up, his suppressed fury bounding in jagged phrases, there’s always the chance he just might.
A lot’s changed since the 1976 premiere, something reflected in Jake Roche’s Kid – the character for whom the school exists doesn’t have a name; his teachers don’t notice it when they look at the dismal report he carries. Phil Davis brought a fizzing anger to the role then. Roche starts silenced into submission, taking Ton’s buffets and prods, till the opportunism of the petrol-tank, and the receding of authority through the teachers’ behaviour, puts him in control.
He’s no hero, enjoying humiliating them, and the headteacher whose presence he demands. But worse has been done to him, and it shows as jeering sarcasm and direct fury at the failure of comprehensive ideals and hopes veer into each other.
Other performances could have more focus, though Emily Dobbs shows how Lynne’s sympathy seems the ultimate betrayal. Jefferson Hall is forcefully monotonal, and David Morley Hale’s nervy head is mere mannerism.
Lucy Cullingford’s movement work might be behind the striking moments showing Ton’s self-image as a biker and the choreography of the final moments. And Poppy Burton-Morgan’s revival is well-timed in a spring where West London theatre is generously stocked with plays about problems over schools.
Ton: Jefferson Hall.
Lynne: Emily Dobbs.
Kid: Jake Roche.
Headmaster: David Morley Hale.
Director: Poppy Burton-Morgan.
Designer: Olivia Altaras.
Lighting: Gary Bowman.
Sound: Chris Barlow.
Movement: Lucy Cullingford.