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Did critics bless Royal Court's school play?

Vicky Featherstone's production of God Bless the Child transforms the Theatre Upstairs into a classroom

Ms Newsome (Ony Uhiara) marshals her charges in God Bless the Child
© Manuel Harlan

Theo Bosanquet
WhatsOnStage
★★★★

Designer Chloe Lamford has created a completely immersive classroom, in which the audience cling to the fringes like Ofsted inspectors... in the middle of it all are the pupils, a class of eight played with admirable naturalism by a rotating team of young actors... Vicky Featherstone's engrossing production runs at a brisk 1 hour 45 straight through, providing a wholly believable glimpse into a contemporary classroom... it rams home its point a little too forcefully, and comes across as somewhat bitter-edged in light of the playwright's personal teaching experience... it nevertheless boasts some exceptional performances - not least from the younger cast members (of whom Bobby Smallridge was a particular stand out as Louis)... a valuable addition to the Court's revolution-themed season.

Serena Davies
Daily Telegraph
★★★

Playwright Molly Davies and director Vicky Featherstone bring us up close to the problem, seating the audience round a classroom peopled by actual eight year-olds (there's an alternating cast) and within kicking distance of the "thinking toadstools" and lilypads for sitting on at storytime... Featherstone and her designer Chloe Lamford have added clever touches... common sense suggests education is currently beset by political correctness not because of a governmental conspiracy to create an Orwellian 'yes' class but because of a relatively new sociocultural habit of indulging our offspring... Davies's depiction of a revolt in the classroom - plausible in itself - also goes wrong... as political thinking it doesn't really work, and feels like a heavy-handed over-extrapolation of Davies's initial idea... Still, the performances are excellent.

Aleks Sierz
The Stage
★★★★

When Ms Evitt, the head of Castlegrave Community Primary School, decides to raise money by piloting a new education system, called Badger Do Best, her staff - class teacher Ms Newsome and assistant Mrs Bradley - are initially supportive... with the imminent arrival of the scheme's creator, Sali Rayner, things threaten to get out of control in Molly Davies' captivating and intelligent drama, which discusses both the issues of progressive education and illustrates the limits of child-led freedom... this is a powerfully written and compelling satire on new fads in education... Davies not only shows how wrong-headed the Badger Do Best scheme is, but she also explores the financial and social reasons for its adoption... enthusiastically directed by Vicky Featherstone, in an immersive space designed by Chloe Lamford that realistically evokes a classroom, God Bless the Child is excellently performed by a perfect cast.

Fiona Mountford
Evening Standard
★★★

It's an inspired idea on the part of playwright, and former teaching assistant, Molly Davies to imagine a mutiny of a class of eight-year-olds in the face of yet another patronising government-sponsored "learning initiative"... The trouble is that Badger and his woodland chums, as portrayed in the stories by educationalist and author Sali Rayner (Amanda Abbington) are a tedious and po-faced lot, a fact not lost on sparky class ringleader Louie (delightfully self-assured Nancy Allsop in the performance I saw)... there's much to admire in Vicky Featherstone's lively production, not least Chloe Lamford's delightfully authentic set of a large, colourful, overlit classroom... [Amanda] Abbington cleverly makes Rayner as smug and passive-aggressive as her books and there's strong support from Julie Hesmondhalgh, best known as Coronation Street's Hayley Cropper, as sympathetic teaching assistant Mrs Bradley.

Michael Billington
Guardian
★★★

Molly Davies's new play extends the Royal Court's "season of revolution" by showing a group of eight-year-olds in a state of mutiny... the result is a very funny, lively satire on imposed educational formulae that only at the end turns a bit too palpably preachy... Davies's strength is that she clearly writes from experience and has devised a hilariously plausible learning system that is being road-tested in selected primary schools... the play aims some sharp blows at a one-size-fits-all system and shows the financial pressures that force headteachers to obey government diktat... It really takes off, however, when Sali Rayner herself, played with a wonderfully glacial benevolence by Amanda Abbington, turns up at the school to deal head-on with Nancy Allsop's impressively subversive Louie... Vicky Featherstone's production also succeeds in capturing the idea that education depends on a precarious consensus between teachers and the taught... the child actors visibly relish the prospect of classroom revolt... Davies finally allows the children to become mouthpieces for her own clearly articulated message.

Quentin Letts
Daily Mail
★★★★

London's Royal Court theatre has stuttered under new artistic director Vicky Featherstone but she has come up with a good'un in God Bless The Child. This 105-minute satire gives trendy, everyone-must-have-prizes teaching methods a long overdue savaging. It does to today's primary schools what the anarchic Sixties film If... did to public schools. It is only a pity it has taken the creative world so long to have a go at progressive schooling. But full marks to playwright Molly Davies, who pierces innumerable modern educationalist cliches... The villain of the piece, brilliantly written, is the creator of the badger method (Amanda Abbington). She resorts to threats, bribery and the worst sort of executive ruses to force through her ruddy badger idea. Great stuff. Miss Abbington aces this careerist gargoyle. Meanwhile, little Louie was played on the night I went by Nancy Allsop. She gave a remarkable performance - as did the other children.

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