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Posts Tagged ‘Nikki Patel’

Yet another play which caught me by surprise and exceeded my expectations. Who’d have thought a piece about our broken secondary education system could provide both a fascinating debate and good entertainment. For me, its a winning start to Matthew Warchus tenure as the new AD at The Old Vic.

The play weaves together three themes – the absurd process parents have to go through to get their kids into a good school aged 11, the way the educational policy-makers have, and continue to, make a mess of it all, and what teachers have to go through in the real world. The former is told through a group of parents at the school gates, the second at increasingly heated policy meetings and the third through a teacher in the classroom having to contend with disinterested children and disrespectful parents contrasted with the satisfaction of Alia, a Malala-like child’s gratitude and success. It takes a while to get into this rhythm but when it does it proves to be both intelligent and entertaining, and surprisingly moving.

The Old Vic is still in-the-round, but this time there’s nothing more than a platform, with a couple of musicians in the side boxes playing rock guitar between scenes. Warchus’ staging is simple and uncluttered and allows the writing and performances to do the job. Rob Brydon has to speak almost all of his lines to invisible or mute characters, so his stand-up experience proves invaluable in creating characters in this Joyce Grenfel way. I thought he was perfect for the part. Nikki Patel is lovely as the young refugee from Pakistan who hangs on his every word and shows up the policy-makers with her insight and common sense, a very impressive stage debut. The rest of this fine young ensemble create completely believable characters brilliantly from much less material. There were quite a few occasions of exit applause, such was the power of some of the speeches and performances.

The play really does draw you in and there’s real audience engagement demonstrated by laughter, muttering, clapping and more. I was surprised by how much Alia’s story, and Nikki’s performance, moved me and how sympathetic I became to teacher Mr Crane, and Rob’s performance. This is way better than some others would have you believe and a great start for the next phase in the life of this great theatre.

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