If the first production by the new man at the helm of The Old Vic is anything to go by, we’re in for an exciting ride during his tenure. Future Conditional, a new play written by Tamsin Oglesby and directed by Matthew Warchus, Kevin Spacey’s replacement, is excellent. Not only does it include live rock music courtesy of Ben Lochrie and Carmen Vandenberg on electric guitars, but also lots of laughs, most of which are provided by the excellent Rob Brydon on tip top form.
Future Conditional is basically a play about education, but it doesn’t focus on just one aspect. One of it’s main narrative strands concerns Alia, a 17-year-old Pakistani who is taught by Rob Brydon’s, Mr Crane in a state school in Sussex. She’s bright and focused, but should she be admitted to an Oxford college? When we’re not privy to Crane’s daily problems that teaching in a mixed race secondary school brings, we’re flies on the wall during meetings of an obstreperous committee compiling a report on education and equality. Because Alia, the outsider, is intelligent as well as innocent, she is deemed to be a perfect candidate for adding her thoughts to this rag tag group. The third strand transports us to a primary school playground, where a group of disparate mums, are desperately trying to get the best education for their children that they can; even if that means a little manipulation of the system. In a nutshell it’s a play that explores the turmoil surrounding our fractious education system.
It’s a large cast of twenty-five, if you include the two musicians, and the scene changes are undertaken during guitar riffs by several actors dressed in school uniforms. It could be chaotic as the scenes change frequently, but under Matthew Wachus’s direction, the whole procedure Is seamless.
Apart from the impressive Rob Brydon, there are several other actors who deserve a mention. Joshua Maguire plays Oliver one of the committee members and an old Etonian, with a ready but forced smile. He is an actor who never disappoints and is particularly hilarious here, especially when pitted against the equally good, Brian Vernel, who portrays Bill, a working-class northerner, who definitely didn’t go to any public school, let alone Eton. No prizes for guessing which one of them rejects the way the privileged few have access to the best education for their offspring.
The tension surrounding the Mum’s gathered in the playground is beautifully realised. There is Hettie, middle-class through and through whose moral dilemma about sending her child to a pay feeing school, is brilliantly brought to life by Lucy Briggs-Owen. At the other end of the social scale is the equally affecting Amy Dawson as Kaye, a working class Mum who doesn’t have any choice about where her child goes to school and is, seemingly, not that bothered. Oh and I also loved Natalia Klamar as the idealistic Suzy.
Future Conditional may not answer any profound questions, but it gets an A+ for energy and entertainment.