Saturday, 3 March 2012

Gravity - Birmingham Rep at mac birmingham

The strength of this new play lies in its subtleties. It would be easy to linger too much on a character damaged by the death of a parent, one living with depression, or another with a brother on the front line in the Middle East, but playwright Arzhang Pezman avoids easy exploration of these issues. Instead, Gravity positions the issues as catalysts, and focusses on the unravelling of lives that happens as a result.

A school is the perfect setting for throwing together a group of characters with different problems, the shared pressure between pupils and teachers means that a plot can come to a head quickly, and the expectations of classroom behaviour mean there is a seam of repression ripe for exploding to the surface. Pezman's own experience working as a teacher in Wolverhampton is used to good effect - there is a sense of realism in the behavior of the pupils, but it is Kathy, the pastoral support who keeps a dangerous pupil in the school through a lack of other options, who best unveils some of the more shameful secrets of our education system.

Drama set in schools can live or die by the quality of parts and acting of the pupils. Stereotypes are easily deployed, and pupil parts can too easily be played for laughs. Ashley Hunter, Rebecca Loudon and Boris Mitkov avoid this - gaining the laughs, but injecting enough pathos into the roles to keep them realistic. Hunter's performance is particularly notable for the way he captures the complexity of early adolescence and the way teenagers deal with conflicting desires.

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