“And you think you can tell us how to act, like we’re in your class, right? I’m not one of your students.”
Put simply, Class by Iseult Golden and David Horan is about a parent-teacher conference, and a child struggling at school. However, in reality, the winner of The Scotman’s ‘Fringe First Award’ is about so much more. It is a play about parenting and insecurity, the growing restrictions placed on teachers to help the children they see every day, love and loss, and, as the title suggests, social class itself. It is also sharply funny and a little bit heartbreaking.
In Class, we follow Jayden and his parents Donna and Brian, and Jayden’s teacher Mr McCafferty, as they negotiate the best way to help Jayden with his “learning differences”. On the surface it seems the only way the adults are united is through their want to help Jayden. But this is not the case. The play beautifully and subtly shows us the ways our insecurities in school manifest themselves as adults, and how Donna, Brian and McCafferty share in these.
Stephen Jones, Sarah Morris and Will O’Connell all add layers to each of their characters making complex, flawed, but ultimately likeable people. Jones and Morris jump between playing Jayden and his classmate Kayleigh, and Jayden’s parent, which on paper could seem jarring and contrived. However, both performers create something which is nostalgic, funny and charming. They seamlessly transition between adulthood and childishness, while cleverly paralleling the children and the affect being in a classroom has on Donna and Brian. O’Connell’s portrayal of the frustrated, isolated and occasionally misguided and patronising teacher is harrowing and striking.
As well as this, the writing and directing is flawless. Pacey and varied, Golden and Horan have managed to achieve what is often seen as both the impossible and considered a faux-pas – to direct your own writing. But the pair’s work is understated and punchy, and wonderfully done.
Rather than jumping on a soapbox, the play makes us question both the modern school system, and our personal conceptions on education, learning difficulties, and judgements on people’s differences in general. It expertly balances an exploration into adult romantic relationships, professionalism in school, and the complex relationship between a teacher and a student, all the while being entertaining and full of wit. It certainly deserves the title of “new Irish writing at its finest”.
Find Class at the Traverse until the 26th August, with student and concession prices available.
Guest Reviewer: Grace Lyle-Condon