Robert Tanitch reviews God Bless the Child at Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London SW1
There have been lots of plays and films about children at school; but I think that this may be the first one to be actually set in a reconstructed primary school classroom with little tables and little chairs, and the audience in the classroom, sitting next to the walls on three sides of the room.
Most teachers, and I am talking about the good, hard-working teachers who know what they are doing, would like to teach; but local councils, so called-experts and the government keep getting in the way. Children have become guinea pigs.
Nobody will be surprised to learn that Molly Davies, the playwright, has been a teacher. The action is spread over three weeks at a school where new teaching methods are being explored to the detriment of the pupils.
A class of eight-year-olds rebel: firstly against their regular teacher, who has a breakdown and then against the smug, unlikeable expert, who is hoping to cash in on her ideas.
The satire isn’t subtle and the melodrama gets less and less believable; but the appeal of Vicky Featherstone’s production is that the eight-year-olds are being played by children and that the grown-up audience can readily identify with them, in much the same way that audiences used to identify with Joyce Grenfell and her nursery class.
There are two casts acting on alternate evenings. The leading role is played by either a girl or a boy. The cast I saw was headed by Bobby Smalldridge.
Featured images: the cast of God Bless the Child at the Royal Court Theatre – credit Manuel Harlan.