‘Admissions’ review

Theatre, Comedy
1 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(19user reviews)
 (© Johan Persson)
1/8
© Johan Persson Alex Kingston (Sherri)
 (© Johan Persson)
2/8
© Johan Persson Alex Kingston (Sherri)
 (© Johan Persson)
3/8
© Johan Persson Alex Kingston (Sherri) and Andrew Woodall (Bill)
 (© Johan Persson)
4/8
© Johan Persson Alex Kingston (Sherri) and Sarah Hadland (Ginnie) 
 (© Johan Persson)
5/8
© Johan Persson Alex Kingston (Sherri) and Sarah Hadland (Ginnie)
 (© Johan Persson)
6/8
© Johan Persson Alex Kingston (Sherri) and Sarah Hadland (Ginnie) 
 (© Johan Persson)
7/8
© Johan Persson Margot Leicester (Roberta) and Alex Kingston (Sherri)
 (© Johan Persson)
8/8
© Johan Persson Sarah Hadland (Ginnie) and Alex Kingston (Sherri) 

Time Out says

1 out of 5 stars

Alex Kingston stars in this woeful American comedy

While we as a nation have rejected chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-injected beef (for now), it’s alarming how few controls there are in place to protect us from this sort of dodgy American import.

‘Admissions’, by Joshua Harmon, is a really very bad play. Perhaps in America, where Daniel Aukin’s production began, it was only quite a bad play. It is, after all, concerned with the mechanics of admission to elite US educational institutions and their relation to affirmative action, things that don’t quite tally with their Brit equivalents.

Nonetheless, even in the most forgiving light, you can surely only be so enthusiastic about ‘Admissions’, which is basically a series of wearying setpiece speeches, heavy with whattaboutery, each desperately daring you to be provoked.

Sherri Rosen-Mason (Alex Kingston) is head of admissions at an apparently spectacularly well-resourced US sixth-form college (or equivalent thereof). She is very hot on diversity, something drilled home in two laborious scenes in which old dear Roberta (Margot Leicester) misconstrues Sherri’s perfectly reasonable desire to have the photos in the college admission brochure reflect the ethnic makeup of the college, in a way that’s presumably meant to make Sherri look bad, but doesn’t, really.

Eventually the plot meanders to the exact spot you expect it to meander to: Sherri’s son Charlie (Ben Edelman) is deferred (it’s an American thing that’s not even that bad) from Yale, and is incensed that his mixed-race best friend has received an offer. In a very long, very unlikely rant he explains to his parents (he also has a dad, Andrew Woodall’s bizarrely warmth-free Bill) that this is all because of affirmative action.

I’m not sure of his exact politics, but I don’t get the impression Harmon is purely here to own the libs. The basic point that well-off white people are often happy to preach diversity until the point it affects them is not an unfair one (hi British theatre!). But his take is mostly lazy and awful. Everyone talks like they’re delivering a (terrible) stand-up set, and the humour is witlessly blunt – reasonable attitudes are cynically conflated with minor hypocrisies, while the worst of the characters’ behaviour is so bound up in extreme wealth and privilege that it’s impossible to meaningfully relate to.

There’s also the question of the diversity of the show itself – is a play which talks so much about the underrepresentation of people of colour being deliberately ironic by having none in its cast or creative team? If so, to what end? A non-white voice in here might have given it all a bit more heft: instead, it’s a conversation between white people about the rights and wrongs of admitting people of colour into their world. Somebody like Bruce Norris might have at least turned this to self-lacerating effect; in ‘Admissions’ it just feels face-palmingly dumb.

Kingston is, of course, a well-known and likeable actor. She is oookay here, and certainly her accent is fine, but her usual hale and hearty charm is smothered in a fretful, surprisingly minor key role that hardly plays to her strengths. Likewise, there’s a game supporting cast, but they’re straitjacketed by Harmon’s laborious speeches.

The eccentricities of US college admissions have just hit the news via the current bribery scandal. ‘Admissions’ might have felt topical. But it doesn’t. Some of America’s smartest playwrights – Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, or Jackie Sibblies Drury – have plenty to say about race and privilege. Joshua Harmon does not.

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Users say (19)

4 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:6
  • 4 star:7
  • 3 star:3
  • 2 star:2
  • 1 star:1
LiveReviews|19
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Boring boring boring.  Just four people shouting at each other in fake American accents.  Would have walked out if not in the middle of the row.  Truly dreadful. Billed as a comedy, that is a joke in itself 



Ignore Time Out’s evil review. The play is very funny and believable with an excellent cast.

SOLT has not had this on offer for ages now so that should tell you something.

Tastemaker

t all starts so well. Sherri (Alex Kingston) is this great admission officer who for years has been trying to introduce a positive change the white middle-class private high school somewhere in the New Hampshire. Year by year she’s managing to let more and more kids from underrepresented minorities get a place in the prestigious college.

She struggles to educate the much older colleagues, who like things the old way and don’t see the reason to highlight the school’s diversity. She’s the one that knows all the kids names and is the first one to welcome any person that isn’t white. Yes, Sherri is the good guy.

Her strong believes are, however, are put in a test when her only son Charlie (brilliant Ben Edelman) is deferred from Yale, while his best friend of mixed race gets in.

The progressiveness she so strongly identifies with crumbles within moments. And we quickly find out what she’s been championing for years is no more than a good looking self serving façade.

Charlie, initially throwing tantrums spoiled son of his well off parents, undergoes an express metamorphosis. Having realised the hypocrisy of his parents, he offers his college money for a scholarship for marginalised kids. Something that Sherri and her husband cannot accept. Neither can they picture their son in a school with common people.

The play touches upon so many issues we still battle these days: lack of diversity, positive discrimination, tokenization and political correctness going of the cliff.  Like every youth Charlies seems to be the only person truly believing in his cause. But whether he’ll be able to stick to his guns and manage to not to turn into his parents, I’m not that sure.

Tastemaker

Thought provoking but not overly intellectual and eye widening but not gratuitously shocking, this, for me, was ‘Admissions’. Led by Alex Kingston on strong, fine form as a US college dean intent on creating diversity within her own institution, the 100-minute play follows her family & local community as the latest year of college applicants discover their fate, her son among them.

I loved the film-like quality that came from the shorter-than-average running time and the passing of months as written across the floor of a singular set and the small cast were tightly knit as they delivered some funny, some

moving and some frankly

bizarre speeches; a particularly lengthy oration from her son, played with admirable vigour & stamina by Ben Edelman, had me sat forward in my seat, unsure of where it was going or if what I was hearing was real. One of the issues for Edelman in particular though was that all his text was set at level 10 meaning that he had nowhere to go but to get louder and louder until he somewhat oddly switched personalities altogether near the end.

In a cast fairly free of overtly likeable characters, it was surprising to be as engaged with them all as I was; the questions raised were certainly thought provoking but I didn’t find myself thinking about them days later as I often do with films of a similarly divisive nature. I feel sure that the entirely white cast was intentional but it did make me wonder if it was being a bit too clever for its own good.

That said, it was entirely watchable and a decent way of spending a couple of hours - maybe not the highest praise in the world but good enough for now.

Sent from my iPhone

Tastemaker

The Time Out reviewer may be a little harsh, but not that gratuitous. It’s a play that tries to talk about a serious, important issue; but in a very lazy and/or very shallow manner. It tries to be ironic, but it doesn’t seem to be aware of the irony on being (tremendously) preachy about preachy people.It tries to be provocative with the ‘un-PC’ character, but ends up just siding with her in a completely uncritical manner.

The acting is actually great, giving the weak text. The teenager son is quite annoying, as teenagers can be. But there are few real interactions between the characters, it’s more mini-monologues put together...
It’s a pity. It does feel like a waste of acting and possibilities of the subject matter...

This interesting play really gave me food for thought! Based in America, we're following this brilliant kid (shout out to the actor who I thought was just amazing) through the whole nightmare of finding/being accepted in a good university as a white kid. During this time the kid will be exposed to the questions of privileges, diversity, equality etc, with this young man trying to find the right thing to do, lost between his parents ideas and contradictions as well as his own ideas and contradictions.

I'd definitely recommend the show!


So cleverly written. Very similar to Get Out in it's tackling an issue the Time Out reviewer clearly doesn't appreciate!


As someone who is non-white, I thought the timeout review is a bit harsh and Admissions do have thought provoking ideas to bring to the table. I love the long monologue/angry rants by the son. It presents good arguments for both sides of affirmative action viewed thru a personal experience. It makes a painful point that we do all want to help until we have to sacrifice something - something we should all introspect in our own lives. The only thing I'm a bit confused about is why this is pitched as a comedy, seems more like a drama to me, one with serious stressful moments that brings back memories of my college admission journey. 


Alex Kingston stars as Sherri, an admissions officer of a posh American private school, with her main goal to increase diversity. Her son Charlie doesn't get accepted into Yale, despite being top of his class, but his slightly lower-performing best friend gets accepted and Charlie believes this is because his best friend is mixed race. The play gets stuck in a paradox loop of white guilt and how can someone benefit from their white privilege and their hard work, but also make room at the table for minorities.


The play doesn't really give us anything new, and there is endless back and forth about the ethics of affirmative action   and white privilege. The cast do a really good job, but like the real life situation it tackles something that is not easy to solve and it really shows in the play, all while ironically not having a single cast member from a minority. 


In my opinion this play is challenging and portrayed "reverse racism" if there is such a term. Alex Kingston played Sherri, the head of admission who tried to increase the numbers of non white students in her private American school. She and her husband (who were both white) promoted diversity strongly and were challenged by their confused teenage son, Charlie.  Charlie was deferred from an Ivy League school while his best friend who was a mixed race boy got in. Charlie's best friend was perceived as ticking more boxes at the admission process than Charlie because of his ethnicity. Charlie was angry and confused because of this as Charlie himself was one of the star students at school. This play showed dilemma in diversity and certainly got the audience thinking and talking about it at the end of the play.


Admissions is a great hard hitting, thought provoking play, tackling the issue of discrimination perfectly. It was really interesting to see different views on the topic, all played out within a family and their friends and colleagues. Although the play was very intense considering the topic, there were also some laugh out loud moments, blended in with great acting. There was no interval which meant you could really get into it 100% with no distractions. Highly recommend seeing this before it ends!

Tastemaker

The play itself is a self-described comedy that in fact feels more like a modern-day, middle-class domestic horror show as it unfolds; the happily married Social Justice Warriors, who are both respected faculty staff at a renowned American private school, have their passionately held beliefs put to the ultimate test by their teenage son during his own College admissions process.

The staged setting remains the same for the entirety, presumably so as not to distract from the uninterrupted performance and occasionally explosive monologue brought forth by the cast of just five. Do you really care about Diversity? It's a question voiced in the very first scene and carried by the characters like a dead weight throughout, designed to force what the play's author no doubt presumed would be a predominantly white audience to ask themselves the same. Instead, I couldn't help but wonder to what extent the author had asked it of himself?


Just how successful can a play addressing issues of race be when it is written, directed and fully cast by white people? What is distinctly jarring is the total absence and therefore silencing of the central, named black character whose own success story provokes all ensuing tensions. The individual performances are captivating and measured but unmistakably told on White people's terms.

Admissions is successful in making the audience uncomfortable but any discomfort I felt was clearly not the kind intended. 


Tastemaker

This is a clever play which taps very well into the privilege and guilt of the predominantly white audience; it creates a seat-squirming awkwardness as it forces both us and the characters to examine the reality of white, middle-class privilege, while also offering laughs in abundance.


Anyone who knows a teenager (or who remembers their former years) will recognise, understand and appreciate the characterisation of Charlie who spends at least 20 minutes screaming about how unfair life is. Tell me about it, pal! It's emotional and irrational and therefore completely real and believable - with some cracking one-liners thrown in for a little bit of comic relief. You feel exhausted by the end of it and really feel for his vocal chords. You understand the desperation from his parents to give him the best life, while tackling the issues in society which conflict so heavily. 


Having previously seen 'Bad Jews' (same writer), I was a little sceptical that this play wouldn't be able to strike the right balance and might lose the humour towards the end in an attempt to make it a little more hard-hitting (Bad Jews gets very dark and difficult to swallow at the end!) but this kept the humour running while also keeping the messaging strong and effective.


The seats of the theatre are so uncomfortable that I'm still suffering the effects now, but otherwise, a great hour and 45 of excellent acting and clever plot.


A stand out play; each one of the only five cast members brings their own characteristic element to the stage and Alex Kingston is the glue holding it all together. 

A real joy to watch, she is on stage non-stop throughout the play that engages with the precarious state of race relations in colleges within the United States in a year where Obama was still president (2015). 


The cries of "I would have voted for Obama for third term if I could have" ring very true and are more than just a whisper here; Admissions's attempts to tackle those said cries fall somewhat short and are left for the viewers to make up their own judgement. 


Would highly recommend seeing Admissions in Trafalgar Studios and cannot rate this any higher. Five stars from me. 

Tastemaker

In competition, there will always be winners and losers. But many of life's competitions don't offer an equal chance to all participants. How can we correct for this without tipping the balance too far in the other direction? Are we making a positive difference? Or playing God? And how far are we willing to sacrifice our own ambitions on the altar of the cause? 


"Admissions" tackles the sensitive and complex issue of diversity, through the lens of US high school and college applications. Alex Kingston, of ER fame, turns in a witty performance as a woman torn between her professional, political and family ambitions. 


The performances are so compelling, and the narrative so rich, that it's a shock to remember at the end that there are only five cast members! The script is both hilarious and compelling, making for a highly enjoyable 100 minutes. The lack of an interval adds to the play's momentum, allowing the cast to forge towards their conclusion. 


There are few areas to improve. However, I sometimes found the characters to change too dramatically, without sufficient development. Furthermore, some stilted moments and fluffed lines were evidence of the fact that it only opened last Thursday - I'm sure these will be remedied!


It's rare that a play makes me laugh for a solid hour, before prompting an intense discussion of the themes on the walk home! 


When a play is really good, it is a joy to watch. This is one of those plays and the only reason it hasn't got five stars is because none of the actors were miked and, at times, I was struggling to hear especially when  they were sitting sideways on to the stage. It is so well written (Joshua Harmon), that I found myself trying to hang onto each and every word - hair pushed away from ears and leaning forward to get millimetres closer to the sound. I don't really understand the fashion for un-miked plays. This is certainly not the first time the sound has been on the low side. The acting was fabulous with Alex Kingston playing the Admissions Officer desperately trying to increase ethnic quotas for the intake at her husband's rather elite  school. Their son, after being rejected by Yale, decides to take himself out of the running for top universities  rather considering a community college. Ben Edelman has huge chunks of narrative which really deserve separate applause. An all round great play.

Tastemaker

Admissions discusses a hot topic but, in struggling to find balance, ends up lacking any real voice.


Joshua Harmon's punchy, on the pulse writing explodes much the way same way it did in Bad Jews but given the sensitive nature of the issue, it comes across a little gimmicky. Rants and tirades replace the usual brevity of conversation and, despite including thought-provoking points, cheapen the quality. It's tries so hard to capitalise on it's key theme, it never really makes a decision itself. 


Alex Kingston has never brimmed with confidence when it comes to an American accent and it really showed in previews. She doesn't come across at home on stage although her characterisation is as good as ever. Ben Edelman is strong for the most part but has a tendency to push too hard and err on hammy, whilst the rest of the cast perform well but don't stand out. 


The staging is unimaginative but then the play is about the dialogue. It's train of thought bounces from confused to inspired to clumsy, never quite owning it's direction and why does a play addressing race inequality have a solely caucasian cast? 


It's an average piece of theatre that highlights and discusses an important, and relevant, topic.


A brilliant play treating of a delicate subject the best way possible!


What is discrimination?


Do we actually have to discriminate positively to fight the negative discrimination and how can one individual have a positive impact on a society of privileges?


I recommend you go watch it if you get the chance. The play is treating different point of view, with an equal respect and in a really smart way.


Set in Hillview school, this is the story of a family reflecting on diversity and positive discrimination. The cast of 5 keep you captivated and laughing through this 1 hour 40 minute play. No interval which means its intense and quick moving. There are brilliant one liners and youll find yourself giggling. 

For me, the reason its 5 stars is, its thought provoking and a real discussion point after you see it. Is there really positive discrimination in today's world? Are uni submissions really dependent on ethnicity? Was Charlie really discriminated against getting into Yale? 


I thought Sarah Hadland who plays Ginnie does a very convincing American accent and is a world away from Miranda. Great acting.


Would definitely recommend.