Iseult Golden and David Horan’s play Class, transfers from a sold out run at The Abbey Theatre and is currently showing at The Bush Theatre.
Set in the classroom, we open to see Mr McCafferty (Will O’Connell), a friendly teacher who tries to go above and beyond his duties in looking after his pupils’ needs. It’s a primary school, after hours, and he quickly finishes his sandwich before a meeting with the parents of Jayden, Brian (Stephen Jones) and Donna (Sarah Morris).
The small colourful chairs and tables, felt tip pens and chalkboard alphabets (designed by Maree Kearns) provide an incredibly nostalgic background, as Brian and Donna reminisce about their own time at school. As parents who faced prejudice themselves and always felt spoken down to when they were growing up- they find it difficult to take when Mr McCafferty- not so diplomatically tries to explain how Jayden has learning “differences” and may need to see an educational psychologist. O’Connell is incredibly intuitive in his delivery as a middle-class primary school teacher- wanting to do well but in-advertently ending up being condescending and alienating the parents.
Morris and Jones are incredibly believable as separated partners, squabbling amongst themselves whenever Mr McCafferty leaves the room. There are real moments of joy, like when they play dare with what they’re willing to scribble on the chalkboard and leave for the teacher to see, coupled with despair as Brian (Jones) begs to be given a second chance and live as a family again. In between the meeting, there are flash forward scenes where Brian and Donna play children Jayden and classmate Kaylie. As children, the pair are incredibly playful, teaching Mr McCafferty dance routines but moments of sadness show the audience first hand the direct result of the adults’ actions.
The poignancy of this play comes with the parent’s struggle with providing the care needed for their son, while also feeling that they are being put in a certain bracket and being judged by the school. Not only does it highlight the complexity of the education system, but also of the barriers in society and the struggles faced when co-parenting.