"Amusing Topical and Relevant Theatre"
by Paul Ackroyd for remotegoat on 02/05/15

This is not J B Priestley’s famous play but a new play by Peter Campling and the Inspectors in question are those from OFSTED . We are in Ardley Green Community School a struggling urban comprehensive. The first half of the play depicts in colourful and amusing style the interactions of the headmaster, his senior team and a host of other characters which must loom large in the life of any large school. Overhanging them in their valiant attempts to satisfy modern accountability requirements and live up to their own ideological beliefs is the ever present threat of an OFSTED inspection . In the second half of the play their worst fears are realised as the inspectors descend.
The author Peter Campling clearly knows what he is writing about, having taught for over 20 years as well as having been the head of a London comprehensive. The play was convincing, fast moving and both funny and moving. It was set primarily in the headteacher’s study suggested simply by a desk , table and a couple of cupboards. The cavernous utilitarian playing space of Theatro Technis well evoked the atmosphere of a rundown institution. From time to time various characters would address the audience directly either as members of staff or as part of the inspection team drawing us into the action. Gaps between the frequent scenes were covered with topical newscasts. The excellent programme notes provided very valuable background information for those not familiar with recent educational practice.
The casting by No Notice Productions under its director Gary Merry was perfect. The universally strong cast played a whole range of colourful characters: slightly overdrawn in some cases but never falling into farcical stereotypes. The key role of the headmaster was well played by Joe Cushley . His large bearded presence seemed to exactly match the portrayal of the character as a likeable devoted teacher increasingly overwhelmed by the task he faced as he tried to deal with the competing demands of staff, parents , governors, the education authority and some personal demons of his own . I can only imagine that this was a portrayal which would ring very true to those who actually have to fill these roles in our educational establishments.
His senior team were a delightful set of contrasts: Winston ( Gbolahan Obisesan ) was the analytical results based deputy head achievement, whereas Amanda ( Michelle Monks) as head of teaching was emotive and gushing. Malcolm (Anthony Best) was a besuited and anally retentive school business manager , hilarious with his continual obsession with fire drills and non-operative blinds whereas Jim the deputy head behaviour and enrichment ( Sean Patterson) was every bit the casual experienced teacher. A number of the cast members doubled roles very effectively. I particularly admired Hillary Derrett who alternated between the efficient smartly dressed school secretary, and the somewhat dipsy mother who for some inexplicable reason had become Chair of Governors.
If I have one quibble it would be that the lead of the Inspectors team played by Amanda Maud was rather one-dimensional and unsympathetic . One imagines, or at least hopes, that there would be almost as much angst in an inspection team about delivering bad news as there would be in receiving it.
Overall this was an excellent evening of theatre which aired some important contemporary issues about our educational system. It deserves to be widely seen by those both in and outside that system.

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