Accompanied by a fantastic bunch of trainee teachers, I recently went to see Future Conditional at The Old Vic. I hadn’t had very much time to research the play prior to pitching up at the theatre, so I entered knowing only that it talked about education and that it starred Rob Brydon.
I was surprised to discover however, that Rob Brydon’s character, whilst being central to the play’s plot, did not play as large a role in proceedings as I had been expecting. This is because plot was not the driving force behind the whole production. In fact, the most intellectually engaging and interesting parts of the play concentrated on the debates that surround education policy.
The play appeared to have three parallel threads running through it: A policy team attempting to come up with ways of restructuring the UK education system, a group of parents attempting to get their children into the best possible secondary schools, and a teacher (Brydon) getting on with his job and helping a disadvantaged young girl to excel and achieve great things.
This three part structure allowed the audience to get a very good understanding of the problematic nature of making policy decisions. It also highlighted how political decisions can impact students, teachers and parents. No one perspective on the debate was really privileged and this meant that we gained exposure to a wide variety of opinions.
The policy debate seemed to revolve around two main conflicting arguments: the need to encourage equality of opportunity at school level, and the refusal of certain individuals to sacrifice what they saw as ‘excellence’ in order to achieve this goal.
The play seemed to suggest that a viable solution to these problems was theoretically possible but that such a solution would be impossible to implement if it meant that people in power had to sacrifice the very things that had put them in that position of privilege. However, the play did end on a very positive note in that it suggested that individual success stories are still possible despite the inherent inequalities of the current education system.