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Future Conditional

  • Theatre, West End
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

A messy, enjoyable start to Matthew Warchus's reign at the Old Vic

The arrival of new artistic director Matthew Warchus has knocked years off the Old Vic. The theatre’s gone a bit yoof, with a trendy refurb of the foyer and bar, and now this energetic, rock-soundtracked drama about Britain’s educational establishment.

Opening to speeches from Maggie Thatcher and Tony Blair alongside strains of punked-up  Beatles tracks, Tamsin Oglesby’s ‘Future Conditional’ suggests that if our school system was itself at school, it would have scored a big fat F in its last SATs. The three strands of story follow a diverse bunch of mothers at the primary school gates dealing with the desperate world of secondary school selection; the excellent Mr Crane – comedian Rob Brydon delivering a nicely understated performance –  teaching a secondary school class including a bright Pakistani refugee revelling in the chance to learn; and then there’s a collection of government stooges tasked with bringing out a report on how they can make Britain’s education better.

The issues are all recognisable – parents pretending they are nearer to a school than they are in order to secure a place; Brydon’s harassed but inspiring Mr Crane struggling in a world where some kids have zero respect for their teachers; the government trying to tackle a system that isn’t working, while also avoiding any unhelpful headlines.

Though Oglesby’s scenarios are very funny, and grapple well with some complex issues, the sheer number of characters mean that several are fairly lazy stereotypes. It’s only the story of the Malala Yousafzai-like Alia – brought to life in an excellent debut by Nikki Patel – where Oglesby’s main theme that education is a gift really shines through.
Alia comes to recommend an overhaul of our system to the policy-makers, which means that it’s a little disappointing when, to show how far Alia has come, Oglesby has her score a place at Oxford. It’s an easy signifier of excellence, but one that ultimately jars with one of the play’s main messages: that perhaps we should be remoulding education in Britain so that Oxbridge is not, necessarily, the pinnacle of achievement.   

But Warchus’s upbeat production brings out the play’s galvanising, energetic spirit. His stage is flanked by two electric guitar players, who stand above the action and ramp up the noise, while an ensemble of uniformed schoolkids trample about the stage during scene changes, fighting and chatting as if in the playground. ‘Future Conditional’ gets an A for effort, but there’s room for improvement.

Buy tickets with Time Out for the Tuesday September 15 performance of 'Future Conditional' and stay behind for an exclusive Q&A with Rob Brydon afterwards

Written by
Daisy Bowie-Sell

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Price:
£10-£45. Runs 2hr 35min
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