Future Conditional is a new play by Tamsin Oglesby, and is performed under the gilt proscenium arch of the Old Vic Theatre, in this first outing for new Artistic Director Matthew Warchus. A modern play tackling a modern subject, Future Conditional looks at the British Education system and the, quite frankly, ridiculous process of admissions.
This absurdity is brought to life through three, semi-intertwining, strands. We delve into the lives of the parents in the playground, the beleaguered yet, inspirational teacher and the ‘think-tank’ tasked with writing, but presumably not implementing, a children’s manifesto.
We see the negatives as these three scenarios play out, but there is a positive. This comes in the shape of Alia, a Pakistan refugee who is eternally grateful for the opportunities the British Education system has given her, and eventually defies all the odds to achieve what many could only dream of.
Nikki Patel excels as the ever optimistic Alia, who has more common sense than the adults. The failures of the system exposed as she questions, explores and interrogates in her never ending quest for learning.
Rob Brydon reminded me of all the inspirational teachers I encountered in my journey through the education system. Though hampered by a world of political correctness his character still manages to provide an education and discipline to his charges.
It is often too easy for stars of the screen to appear on the West End, but not adapting their performance to the stage, yet this is not the case with Brydon who brings a humble sense of realness to the character and brings the audience with him on his journey.
Despite a large and youthful cast, the children remain largely invisible with Alia as the only spokesperson. At first it seems odd to see Rob Brydon in a one sided classroom conversation when there are enough actors to take on the speaking parts. And then it becomes clear, the children are as invisible here as they are in the education system. A system that revolves around pushy parents, class and money.
Both the ‘playground parents’ and the ‘think-tank’ provide some very comedic moments while at the same time highlighting the real issues these groups face, and at the same time demonstrating that it’s not always only children who behave like children!
The set changes are masked by short musical interludes and special mention should go to Ben Lochrie and Carmen Vandenberg for their talented performances.
I left the theatre wanting to take the tube straight to Downing Street, so that I could tell the Prime Minister how ridiculous this system actually is, but I doubt whether it would have had much resonance with our old Etonian premier. Maybe this isn’t such a modern subject after all.
Future Conditional looks to be a very promising start to Matthew Wachus tenure at The Old Vic.