Matthew Warchus' tenure as artistic director at the Old Vic kicks off with a new comedy about education and has a cast of many. Rob Brydon is the star name being touted on marketing material but in reality this is an ensemble piece.
Tamsin Oglesby's Future Conditional is essentially three plays in one, each with a separate cast, the action swapping between the stories with only two characters crossing over (one seen and one referred to).
In Brydon's segment he plays a teacher at a secondary school telling the story in a series of conversations with his class but for the most part you have to imagine what the pupils are saying because you only hear his side.
Through the teachers eyes we see some of the challenges of the classroom. Juggling the ultra bright and eager to learn Pakistani refugee Alia (Nikki Patel) with the disruptive Jordan who's got problems at home.
It is skillfully written and performed so that it is not just Brydon's physical and verbal reactions that are funny but also the imagined comments from the kids.
And while Brydon is no doubt a draw, for me at least the excitement mainly came from seeing Ben Lloyd-Hughes (see additional 6DS below). He features in a segment set around a Government think tank which is supposed to be advising on educational policy.
The group is a mixture of people from different backgrounds, state and private education with Joshua Maguire (another Stan fav) playing an Oxbridge graduate and ex-Etonian. The debate here is about equality in education and how you maximise the potential of children from poorer backgrounds so that they are on an level playing field with those from affluent backgrounds.
A third segment is told from the perspective of the parents or rather a group of mothers who meet daily in the playground, carrying an abandoned scooter like an accessory. They are all trying to get their kids into the best secondary schools. The minefield of getting your first preference state school versus private scholarships and fee paying come under the spotlight.
Here too there are prejudices: should you follow the rules or cheat to get the right school, should you use a tutor to improve chances of scholarship or is it morally right to pay to get a better education?
Alia is the linchpin in that she represents everything that teachers, parents and the Government want to achieve. The play is almost, but not quite, book-ended with her Oxford University interview and the subsequent discussions of her application by the interviewees.
Oglesby script wittily and expertly captures the dilemma and quagmire of the British education system. Occasionally it totters towards being didactic and is in danger of falling into its own stereotype but its humour and laugh out loud moments pull it back.
Future Conditional is an exposing and thought provoking comedy. It highlights a breadth of problems with our education system none of which are to do with the kids.
You can catch it at the Old Vic Theatre until 3 October and it is two hours and 35 minutes long including interval.
An easy peasy one as Joshua Maguire was in The Hour with Mr W.
And extra 6DS
When I'm not at the theatre I'm a bit of a teen fiction and film addict (each to their own) and so there was much excitement for me in seeing Ben Lloyd Hughes on stage as he was in Divergent and Insurgent which is a favourite film of mine. But extra excitement came with the realisation that in seeing him I'm now only two degrees separated from the gorgeous Theo James. It's the small things.