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Class review at Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh – ‘intriguing, if contrived, play about parents and teachers’

Stephen Jones and Sarah Morris in Class at Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. Photo: Ros Kavanagh Stephen Jones and Sarah Morris in Class at Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. Photo: Ros Kavanagh

Parent-teacher meetings are uniquely pressurised encounters. David Horan and Iseult Golden’s play, first staged at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, explores and exploits this fertile dramatic terrain.

Brian and Donna have been summoned to see Mr McCafferty, teacher of their nine-year-old son Jayden, because their child has scored poorly in a literacy test. From the beginning, Brian is defensive and suspicious, his own experiences of the education system clouding his responses.

The play adeptly demonstrates the stakes that both teachers and parents can have in a child’s well-being and the stresses that teachers are placed under, having to play social worker half the time.

It also cleverly shifts the audience’s sympathies. While McCafferty is initially scrupulously careful in his use of language, talking about “learning difference”, his preconceptions about Jayden’s parents soon float to the surface.

Class has an intriguing premise, but it’s somewhat fudged by a production that hops between scenes in which Sarah Morris and Stephen Jones play Brian and Donna and scenes in which they play young Jayden and his classmate.

The performances are impressively nimble, capturing the kids’ fidgety physicality, and Will O’Connell, as McCafferty, adroitly strikes a balance between a man dedicated to his job and someone with his own prejudices and agendas.

The final scenes, however, are rather contrived and the play as a whole feels muddled, both in what it wants to say and the method in which it says it.

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Strongly acted, if slightly scattergun, play about teachers, parents and the kids who get caught in the middle