Stephen Jones delivers a powerful standout performance in this fiery Irish tragicomedy – ★★★★★

Playwrights David Horan and Iseult Golden have certainly done their homework. CLASS, a tense and fast-moving production, handles the tough topic of learning difficulties and its impact on a family with delicacy and sensitivity.

Photo: Helen Murray.

Stephen Jones (Brian) and Sarah Morris (Donna) are the two ex-partners staying behind after class to meet with the timid Mr McCafferty (Will O’Connell) to discuss their son Jayden’s progress. When the teacher recommends that Jayden should be seen by a psychologist, the three characters find themselves embroiled in a heated confrontation.

The meeting takes place in Maree Kearns’ colourful and intimate classroom, where Jones and Morris become a hilarious double act in amongst the tension. The parents become the children in many ways than one, scrawling #FML and ‘Donna Woz Here’ on the blackboard when the teacher leaves the room and later, in alternative scenes, playing Jayden and his classmate Kaylie in an after-school homework club.

As the play progresses, we see more of the family issues bleed through into Jayden’s conversations in class. A letter-writing exercise subtly references the nine-year-old’s distance from his father – something which then comes to a head in Jones’ heartbreaking final scene.

Meanwhile O’Connell’s Mr McCafferty finds himself in the middle of it all, mediating Donna and Brian’s disputes with a naïve and condescending tone which only fans the flames of the character’s short temper. “Gold star for me,” the father retorts in the opening scene, in a moment of conflict which only snowballs over the course of the production to reach a shocking climax.

Keen not to turn their production into a 95-minute shouting match, Horan and Golden inject childish humour throughout to lighten the tone. Watching three adults dabbing and flossing, although cringeworthy, served as some amusing comic relief.

A fast-moving drama with humour, conviction and charm, CLASS is an emotional exploration of when personal and educational interests collide, with some devastating results.

CLASS is now playing at the Bush Theatre until 1 June.

Disclaimer: I was invited to watch CLASS for free in exchange for a review of the performance. I did not receive payment for this review and all opinions stated are honest and my own.