The futures of their children are at stake and passions run high among the strongly motivated Shepherd’s Bush parents determined to secure a decent education for their offspring.
Steve Waters’ new play, the second in the Bush’s short Schools Season, sets out to show the arguments for and against an alternative system, as well as the potential pitfalls faced by these caring, but not exceptionally wealthy, mums and dads (the luxury of an expensive private education is not an automatic option) in their attempt to set up a free school in their local catchment area.
It’s an important issue (journalist and erstwhile theatre critic Toby Young is currently at the helm of just such an enterprise in nearby Ealing) but though interesting, well-acted and indisputably topical, it lacks a certain lightness of touch.
Waters’ doesn’t completely succeed in merging the personal aspects of the plot with the political issues, and his characters – serially failing middleclass entrepreneur Nick and his wife Lara who jointly
initiated the project with working class website developer Parvez; recently ditched, comprehensive school music teacher Rachel who found them on a flyer, and Martin, her thoughtless ex – are sometimes in danger of seeming mere mouthpieces.
That said, there are some very funny moments – especially when Andrew Woodall’s arrogant Nick (based on Mr. Young?) confronts Joanne Froggatt’s sprightly civil servant – and there’s more than enough material here to sustain this topical debate between parents who, despite their stated idealism, still want their own kids to be the ones guaranteed to benefit from a non-selective, state-funded system which won’t let them, or their children, down.
Bush Theatre, Shepherds Bush Green, W12 8QD
Tube: Shepherds Bush 020 8743 5050
Until February 19
– Louise Kingsley