Working class parents square off against a middle class teacher in Class, a new play by Iseult Golden and David Horan.
Set in a Dublin school, the action centres on the conflict between parents Donna and Brian (Sarah Morris and Stephen Jones) and Ray McAfferty (Will O’Connell), their son Jayden’s teacher. Morris and Jones also skilfully play the parents’ son Jayden and his classmate Kaylie.
Allegiances shift quickly.
Some of the blows aimed at the education system land squarely. “Once they decide you’re bad news that’s the end of it—you’re fucked,” argues Brian.
Examination of relationships is a key way class differences are illustrated. Donna and Brian’s relationship is in freefall—and publicly— despite Brian’s attempts to disguise it. Staid Ray’s relationship breakdown happens in private.
For all its defences of working class people, the play falls back on stereotypes. Brian is the angry mechanic and taxi driver with a thick accent and Ray is the moralising, earnest teacher. These are well-worn characters.
A happy break from the stereotyped class confrontation between the two men is Donna’s interjection to Brian, “You condescending prick—you’re just as bad as him,” in response to his emotional blackmail.
Where Class is at its strongest is in its wit and observations of personal frailty. It falls when it tries to make deeper points about the state of education.
This is partly because it locates the fundamental division in the classroom between teacher and parent. Senior management is a restraining influence on Ray’s zealous do-goodery rather than a body perpetuating the class divisions Brian rails against.
The strong performances can’t quite pull together the disparate elements of the script, but bring out the best in it.