(seen at the afternoon performance on 4th April 2019). The monkey
rather suspects that personal politics will determine entirely anybody's
reaction to this play. Joshua Harmon takes the idea of "positive
discrimination," those who believe overtly or covertly in it, those who carry it
out, and examines the effects of it from all angles.
From a first encounter between Serri Rosen-Mason (Alex Kingston), admissions
officer in a New England private school and her put-upon elderly "Development
Officer" Roberta (Margot Leicester), terms are defined. A rather fast talking
(thankfully slowing eventually) Kingston champions the cause of multi-culturalism
to a well-meaning but increasingly baffled Roberta - a lovely piece of confused
and ever more confused characterisation.
Son Charlie Luther Mason (Ben Edelman) gets a stonking speech and makes the
most of it, opening the argument a way that makes his father Bill Mason (Andrew
Woodall) exclaim "We've raised a Republican." Edelman in particular makes the
very most of his role. If looking a trifle too old, it's very fine, hair-trigger
controlled and entirely credible pain we feel. With Woodall, particularly in
later scenes, providing contrast, an excellent pairing.
Even more committed parent Ginnie Peters (Sarah Hadland) provides the other
outside voice. Her final scene is yet another angle on the argument, grounds
shifting just when resolution is in sight. The final voice in the quintet, done
with subtlety by both actor and writer alike.
The only flaw is that the counter to the central idea may become blindingly
obvious too soon. That had simple equality been achieved, everything else is
unnecessary. There is a case that the power was already in the hands of those
the play considers. First time, they abused it by subjugation. This time,
compensation, seems just to produce more tangled knots - exerting strangulation
of various kinds on all... and particularly those who may wish to seek a genuine
and effective solution.
Plenty to discuss after the play ends, and it's a brave work from which to do
so. For anyone interested in truly exploring a field usually buried beneath
angry shouting that passes for, but is not, debate.