Nurture or punishment is the fundamental dichotomy all teachers hold regarding caring best and educating their pupils. In Dismissed, the first full-length production by the antiracist theatre company The Upsetters, this debate is heightened as school teachers dispute what to do with a student after a knife is found in his bag.
The story follows Ashley Fraser (Georgia-Mae Myers), a young sociology teacher operating in one of London’s lowest-ranking secondary schools, and the series of events that unravel after she discovers that Tyler, one of her favorite students, has a hunting knife in his bag. Her efforts to offer him a second chance are countered by Susan (Rebecca Crankshaw), the school’s head teacher, who’s adamant that expelling the student is in his and others, best interest. Two more teachers, Jonathan (Jon McGuinness) and Dennis (Corey Montague-Sholay) sit in a more centrist position with their opinions and tend to lighten up the mood and tension between the other two. Finally, Tyler’s mum Erica (Bonnie Baddoo), brings the storyline outside the school grounds. She brings to light some of the anxieties associated with being a mother to young Black boys in London today.
The play also examines teachers’ precarious working conditions, the dangers of Pupil Referral Units, and the broader context in which knife crime statistics are increasing.
In Dismissed, debuting playwright Daniel Rusteau and director Nikhil Vyas successfully explore complicated racial and class dynamics in the classroom with nuance through heartfelt performances, a stripped-down set design, and poignant writing.
On until the 3rd of June. Book tickets now.
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