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Answering to the Governor (Salford)

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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Venue: The Lowry
Where: Salford

The polemics about religious schools and the exclusivity of them has never been discussed with more fraught opinion and is often like watching a tug of war with no winner and no real conclusion. John Hoyle (writer/director) has tackled the debate with a degree of assurance and deftly discusses ideologies for and against, flagging up the weaknesses in both arguments.

Agnostic teacher Jim Foster (Richard Dobson) works in a Catholic school and has been hauled in to see the Headmaster (Hylton Collins) to answer for his actions. Foster has told a child whom he teaches that there is no God. The consequence is a disciplinary and a letter produced by the School Governors Board stating that Foster is a Catholic and that he apologises for his outburst. The ensuing hour revolves around whether Foster will sign the letter thus denouncing his own staunch beliefs.

The writing has promise with some wonderful lines and the argument is clear, if mostly prosaic. It’s a debate which has been covered many times before and finding a new spin was always going to be difficult. The production feels like one continuous conversation and at times, a rant rather than a play. The point is muddied further as the representative for the Governors, Hilary Griffiths (Chris Kerry) is almost a pantomime baddie and her stereotyping of such a hard-nosed busy-body lends little to the reality of the situation. It is unfortunate that the piece is left in the hands of flabby acting.

The pacing is rather flaccid but this is a directorial point rather than in the writing but the play would be better served if the central character had real dramatic moral dilemmas.

Answering to the Governor is a missed opportunity to debate a zeitgeist topic.

- Lucia Cox


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