Brightest and Best

2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

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Thanks to all-round naivety, 'Brightest and Best' lasts just shy of three hours. It could boil down to a taut 90 minutes. But writer Matt Morrison, briefly a teacher himself, shows all of his workings. We see too much of former management consultant Rob's backstory, before getting to the thrust: his new job teaching English at an independent school.

Rob (William Owen) clearly wants his own 'Dead Poets' Society', but teaching proves harder than it looks, and his timid, over-friendly approach leaves him as flustered as his class.

Morrison's slack structure means low-level drama, which, in turn, sees him up the ante with compensatory artificial crises, including an overdose, self-harm and an affair visible from scene three. Director Natalie Ibu exacerbates the problem by promoting flair above functionality. She could save 20 minutes on scene changes alone, and much of the acting is bloated, attempting to do something with every single line or gesture.

Hetty Abbott comes out unscathed with a collected performance as Rob's wife Kate, but this school-set play feels like too long in detention.



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