Future ConditionalPosted by Laurence Green
Rob Brydon and debutante Nikki Patel redeem this inconsistent docu-drama about the UK education system playing at the Old Vic.
The flaws in our education system are exposed by Tamsin Oglesby's lacklustre new play Future Conditional (Old Vic), directed by Matthew Warchus, the theatre's new artistic director.
The drama tackles the conundrum of British schooling through a myriad of characters including parents, teachers and Alia, a prodigiously clever 17-year-old Pakistani student and the newest member of Britain's Education Research Board, a Government Commission whose purpose is to look into education and equality. Her journey through the state school system is based on an actual story. The character's position as an outsider gives her clarity about things that are often taken for granted and the heart of the play is her relationship with her teacher and education itself. Alia has a radical solution for Britain's schools that could restore our place in the world education league. But is the system ready to take lessons from a schoolgirl?
This is not so much a play as a collection of mildly amusing episodes, meetings and debates that fail to catch fire, while the sheer number of characters means that several are generally lazy stereotypes. Indeed, there is no aspect of education Oglesby leaves out: private versus public, the postcode lottery, parental dilemmas and institutional tribalism.
However, the complex issues involved remain unexplored in any depth and have nothing new to add to what we already know on the subject.
The show, however, finds partial redemption in two good performances - from Nikki Patel, making her professional stage debut as Alia, and Rob Brydon who brings a bright-eyed fervour to the role of her kindly, straight-laced secondary school teacher.
It would have been far better, however, had Oglesby eschewed the idea of a docu-drama and focused instead on a single issue in the UK education system and developed it with much greater insight and clarity.
Runs at the Old Vic theatre until Saturday 3 October 2015.
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