S.E.N

You can find the characters Taylor and Aalia in every comprehensive school in the country. Actually you can find lots of them. Taylor’s removal from her normal lessons into the intervention classroom is understandable from the moment she opens her mouth. She is notorious within the school and, in the sexual, prosmicuous sense, is very mature for her 15 years. I’m sure her school friends, if she has any, would describe it far more vividly.

Similarities with occasional scenes from Waterloo Road or any other school-based drama are perhaps inevitable

Taylor has no desire to be at school as she fails to see the point of it and, having spent most of her time in this special class, is on the verge of being moved to a referral unit. She is white-British and comes from a family that believes in a ‘White Britain’, which makes her current position rather difficult, given that the only other student present, seated on the opposite side of the room, is wearing a headscarf and hijab.

Aalia is also British but not in the way that Taylor understands it. She has an air of mystery about her, partly because she is silent for much of the time. What this well-spoken young lady is doing in the room is part of the unfolding story.

If you’re thinking that there is nothing original in all of this, then you are quite right. Similarities with occasional scenes from Waterloo Road or any other school-based drama are perhaps inevitable. There’s probably not much that hasn’t been done before in relation to school situations but there is still plenty of scope for creating interesting new characters.

Keeping these two characters apart is the struggling teacher. Played by Wesley Lineham, he has the task of delivering a lesson that no professional would devise for children in those circumstances. In doing so he is faced with inevitable consequences that make him come across as a stereotypical incompetent.

Akila Cristiano conveys Aalia’s contempt for Taylor in well-timed, succinctly stated criticisms and observations. Watching Olivia Duffin’s performance of Taylor, I could not help seeing and hearing Catherine Tate as Lauren Cooper but with a different set of catchphrases. The only thing missing was a lesson in French.

After prolonged altercations there are moments towards the end of the play when the characters reveal another side to themselves. The cast have the chance to explore previously hidden depths and this classroom saga is lifted above the level of the predictable but the phase is short lived.

S.E.N is not without laughs and along with the rest of the audience I appreciated some of the humour in many of the lines. Then again I like Catherine Tate.

Reviews by Richard Beck

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

A classroom, South East London. The walls are lined with inspirational quotes to enthuse students who are 'a cause for concern’. In this unflinching play, the teacher and the students push each other to the limit, forcing them to confront unwanted truths about themselves. No Prophet Theatre presents this razor-sharp play by Royal Court Young Writer Holly McKinlay about the frictions in a classroom.

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