Review: Admissions, at Trafalgar Studios
It’s a battle between fair play and survival instinct as Alex Kingston plays a parent forced to see her job from a different perspective
11 April, 2019 — By Catherine Usher
Alex Kingston and Sarah Hadland in Admissions. Photo: Johan Persson
EVEN though the setting is rather niche – a progressive, fee-paying private school in the US – Admissions provides a thorough and frequently amusing appraisal of human nature and how quickly people will abandon their principles when it comes to their nearest and dearest.
Alex Kingston plays the caring, charismatic Sherri with conviction, set on providing the type of education she believes in for as wide a cross section of society as she can. She’s head of admissions at the school and her job – and, indeed, her passion – is to champion diversity.
Throughout the play there are countless incidences of getting ahead, social climbing and competitiveness – Sherri sees the admissions process entirely from the perspective of a job until she experiences it as a parent. The discriminatory side of positive discrimination is very difficult for her to tolerate when she has to navigate it for her son. It forces her to analyse the position that it puts white, male, seemingly privileged young men in.
The failing of the show is that it assumes an empathy with Sherri’s dilemma. Author Joshua Harmon sees his audience as liberal, yet supporters of a selective schooling system, so if you don’t come from that perspective then the tone doesn’t sit so comfortably.
However, the conversations between Sherri, her son Charlie (a magnificent Ben Edelman) and her husband Bill (Andrew Woodall) are fascinating. Charlie elicits sympathy as the only child cornered by his well-meaning parents and his speech in which he rages against the perceived injustices he suffers is shocking but well-argued.
Sherri’s fragile relationship with fellow mum Ginnie (Sarah Hadland) unravels entertainingly, as Sherri’s lioness tendencies are exposed. The demise of their friendship perfectly showcases the battle between a sense of fair play and survival instinct that runs throughout the play – and how emphatically one triumphs over the other.
Until May 25, then touring until June 22
0844 871 7632