School forms a significant part of our childhoods/teenagehood – educational structures that are vital for setting us up towards the future and our potentially lifelong friendships. But what happens when this structure doesn’t necessarily address the mental health and emotional realities of the day? Emma Anderson’s pertinent production The Lesson opens up the conversation on how the system could better respond to increasing mental health demand, hopefully starting the necessary steps to address this.
Placed in an underfunded, London based secondary school, The Lesson sways between drama teacher Clara (Geebs Marie Williams) solitarily in her drama studio doing what she can to best plan ahead for a successful teaching week, burnt out, pondering, continually attempting to problem solve how she can better support the future generation.
Clara and fellow colleague Abi (Francesca Isherwood) at odds at how best to support uninspired student Daniella (Savannah Ayoade-Greaves) who faces the impending reality of exclusion if her disruptive behaviour ceases to change. And lastly Clara’s drama lessons – where she’s faced with engaging a generation that are more interested in who’s dating who on Love Island than connecting to 20th century drama texts whilst also taking on a maternal role up against a smart talking cohort consisting of the studious Ashani (Kamanzie Gakuru), the confident Kayleigh (Ashling O’Shea), tomboy Charity (Flo Crompton) and the aloof Daniella – all bringing with them their own harsh realities that feed into the school day and how they access it.
Anderson perfectly voices the frustration felt by both the staff and students when it comes to what structurally could work better to achieve more successful outcomes, both the teacher and student voice articulated well. Tian Brown-Sampson directs an honest take on a major part of our society that resonates – for many teachers I’m sure a fly-on-the-wall take on the day to day school day. Although this is a societally thought provoking watch, there are plenty of laugh out loud moments too – the balance is pitched perfectly between the heaviness and lightheartedness of the school day – a powerful piece of theatre.
Written by Lucy Basaba.
The Lesson was shown from Tuesday 30th January until Friday 2nd January at Theatre503. To find out more about the production, visit here…