A disturbing view of an urban landscape scarred by knife crime and an increasingly disaffected youth; a message we ignore at our peril.
We can barely turn a page or watch a news bulletin without reference to another young life extinguished in a knife attack. Whatever the cause, whether it be a perceived slight or disrespect it’s a shocking waste that is repeated up and down the country.
This important new play by Daniel Rusteau explores the underlying causes of knife crime at an under achieving London school. The story begins as the teachers are briefed by the head. Ashley (Georgia-Mae Myers) is an idealist trying to make a difference; Susan (Rebecca Crankshaw) is the harassed, overworked head teacher. Dennis (Corey Montague-Sholay) was a street kid who grew up to be a teacher but still sees something of himself in the pupils. Jonathan (Jon McGuiness) is the world weary veteran, who’s been there, done that got the Ofsted inspection; while Erica (Bonnie Baddoo) is the mother of a pupil slowly losing his way in life.
Their concern lands on Tyler and Rhys, the class tearaways who are, according to Susan showing the classic signs of going off the rails. In her view there can only be one solution if bitter experience is any indication. Ashley is soon confronted with the mother of all dilemmas after a classroom incident involving Tyler. She is desparate to avoid the sanction that will inevitably follow. Dennis warns Ashley that her judgement is clouded because Tyler is her favourite pupil. Jonathan does his best to act as mediator when Ashley and Susan lock horns.
A single act lasting 75 minutes covers a wide range of social issues and moral conundrums that routinely confront the teaching profession. The school in question will be familiar to anyone who spent their formative years in a modern inner city environment. The dialogue is crisp and urgent giving a sense of desperation as teachers morph into social workers. The narrative spins a familiar ‘damned if they do damned if they don’t’ scenario where nobody wins.
The most perceptive lines are taken by Susan, whose own idealism has been crushed by the realities of running a failing school. Her exchanges with Ashley are particularly revealing as she delivers the ultimate riposte ‘it’s easy to spot the problem but more difficult to fix’. It’s a seminal statement of fact; there are no obvious answers to a human tragedy but this excellent play at least throws light on the issues at hand.
Writer: Daniel Rusteau
Director: Nikhil Vyas
Producer: Marcus Bernard/The Upsetters
Review by: Brian Penn