Admissions (Trafalgar Studio 1)

This transfer of Joshua Harmon’s play from New York seems timely with the recent court cases around well-heeled parents paying for their offspring to attend the right college.

Sherri (Alex Kingston) is Head of Admissions at a school where her % of diverse students is ever rising. As someone who worked in the academy for a long time, quotas, inclusion and additional support for minorities is a concern in the UK, too, so this play might click with audiences here.

Alex Kingston and Andrew Woodall
Alex Kingston and Andrew Woodall

Husband Bill (Andrew Woodall) is the head of the school and their son Charlie (Ben Edelman) has been obsessed with Yale since he watched the film Mystic Pizza as a child.

The trouble is, his best friend Perry, a mixed-race boy who passes as white, gets in where Charlie does not. We never see Perry or his black father, Don, a tutor who has been overlooked for promotion, but we do meet his mother, (Sarah Hadland) best friend of Stella.

Alex Kingston and Sarah Hadland
Alex Kingston and Sarah Hadland

Moving across a brisk hundred minutes from concerns of representation in the school brochure (nicely comic scenes between Kingston and Margot Leicester) to white privilege and access to the right colleges and networks, Admissions didn’t quite work for me.

Charlie’s initial outburst is incoherent and overplayed, although the character settles in later scenes. Despite the subject matter relating to Blacks, Asians and Hispanics, the cast is resolutely white: it would have been nice to see a scene in Perry’s house, or in the cafe where the student integration is staged.

Alex Kingston, Andrew Woodall, Ben Edelman
Alex Kingston, Andrew Woodall, Ben Edelman

Under the direction of Daniel Aukin, this play doesn’t always take flight but there is maximum use made of Paul Wills’s utilitarian set, all pristine and glossy white, with the passage of time indicated in projected months throughout.

Photo credits: Johan Persson. Admissions closes at the Trafalgar Studios on 25 May and transfers to Richmond Theatre.

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