London Theatre Review: Admissions at Trafalgar Studios
| By Carole Lovstrom
In short, Admissions is not to be missed.
I have to admit, I saw Alex Kingston’s name in the cast list and that sold it to me straight away. I’m a big fan of Doctor Who and love her acting in that so I was hoping her talent translated to theatre.
Guess what? She’s an excellent theatre actor as well. Both Alex (Sherri) and Sarah Hadland (Ginnie) pull off very plausible American accents and both communicate the depth of their characters beautifully. This isn’t easy in a 90-minute play, with so many conflicting emotions and arguments. Sarah’s character appears bubbly, happy and uncomplicated to begin with but this is clearly only surface deep as she masks the injustices her family has faced over the years. Conversely, Sherri appears as the long-campaigning diversity focussed academic whose true thoughts and priorities are tested when her son fails to get into the college he applies for.
If you think you know the answer to “do we want diversity in all areas of our society” then come and see this play. It is very funny and a bit sad, and really makes you question your own standpoint and how far you would go to promote equality. The question this play poses is more around how do we make equality happen, and it looks at how individuals might really need to live it. Trouble is, when we try to live this way (as the family in Admissions finds) it shines a spotlight on our deep needs to protect our own, which isn’t a comfortable discovery but is so brilliantly played out by the cast.
When the relationship between Sherri and her best friend breaks down, you can see that the power of the silent message. Sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s what you don’t and sometimes it’s what you don’t challenge, and this is the issue that breaks their friendship completely.
I recognised the angst of the parents and the stress and conflict this event in a child’s life can cause. It is rarely the child who is driving the emotion, though they can quickly get caught up in it, but in this case, the teenager, played by Ben Edelman, is front and centre of the drama. His scenes were delivered with such raw intense feeling, and the audience didn’t know whether to laugh or gasp, the script was so achingly honest.
Margot Leicester gave a hilarious performance as that person trying to walk the line of meeting her manager’s objectives, meeting the Political Correctness agenda, and finding a way of making sense of the requests that were being put to her. Again, the comedy of the situation was both brilliant and tricky to digest in equal measures.
Andrew Woodall plays Sherri’s husband Bill and they work well together, a strong marital unit fighting injustice and celebrating successes, though the omission of their son in this picture is very visible, particularly from the relationship with his father.
I am impressed by the power of the storytelling, but it is an extraordinary play – probably the best I have seen both for acting and for the lingering messaging that prompted conversation after the play, and for the following couple of days. You really must go see this one.
London Theatre Direct blogger Carole Lovstrom isn’t the only person heaping praises on Admissions which received 4-star reviews after yesterday’s press night.
Jasper Watkins of The UpComing says “Admissions is a fiery reduction of the divisions that fuel national conversations of access and privilege.” While Matt Wolf of theartsdesk comments that “Joshua Harmon knows how to stir and excite an audience and does that and more with Admissions,” which he says is “topical and whiplash-smart.” Marianka Swain from BroadwayWorld describes the show as “Provocative, bracingly funny and persistently challenging, this is a drama with claws.” Mark Shenton from LondonTheatre says of writer Joshua Harmon “his meaty and superbly acted play raises plenty of live-wire issues around race and privilege.”
Tickets for Admissions starring Alex Kingston are on sale now through the end of the run on 25 May. Don’t defer, book Admissions tickets at Trafalgar Studios now.