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The Lesson | Theatre 503

Written by Emma Anderson, The Lesson is a brilliant and strong play. The Lesson picks a week in November and follows the lives of four Year 11 students and their English teacher Abi. Focusing primarily on tough, troubled and disruptive Daniella, following an incident with an unseen fellow classmate (Callum), the show focuses on calling out the lack of resources, awareness and understanding in the system. Daniella, a young black girl, is both villainised and victimised by different perspectives and is barely given the chance to use her own voice. Shunned by the rest of the class, and with only Clara rooting for her, Daniella faces being sent to a school for tough kids. 

The cast are all immensely talented, each delivering powerful and layered performances. From ditsy but kind hearted Kayleigh (Ashling O'Shea), tough and misunderstood Charity (Flo Crompton), rigid but passionate Ashani (Kamanzi Gakuru), cold yet sensible Abi (Francesca Isherwood), concerned and determined Clara (Geebs Marie Williams) and the angry yet lost Daniella (Savannah Ayoade-Greaves). Each actor brings so much energy and punch to their characters and it feels as though the characters are familiar to us. Director Tian Brown-Sampson manages to bring the best out of each character, allowing each of them to feel rounded and real. Even the cold Abi is given moments where her humanity and own conflicts are brought to the foreground, elevating her in the audience opinion. Each character has a clear character arc and it was rather satisfying to see all the characters given the space to grow and shine. 

By primarily setting the show in a drama classroom, the show allows for humour to help introduce and welcome us into their world. With dramatic spotlighted and exaggeration introductions for each student, dramatic movement pieces and fascinating classroom conversations with sarcastic and sexual innuendos from the students, the show uses comedy well. Through these discussions, Anderson manages to deliver several empowering feminist agendas whilst never preaching at the audience. 

Another brilliant addition to The Lesson is the use of frequent school wide announcements by the principal, which becomes satirical of over the top school positivity, whilst also showing a glimmer of hope during the more serious scenes.  It also manages to touch upon several issues, carefully not indulging in them too much and succeeds in what it set out to do. With the very pointed question of "why is Daniella the only one to ever get in trouble?", the implications of classism, elitism, racism, and sexism run throughout. The show also discusses toxic domestic situations, troubled backgrounds, sexual allegations and violence. The show uses the most authentic dialogue for the students, allowing their personalities and the current colloquial slang to seep through. With the unfiltered and naive coarse language predominantly used throughout, Anderson has really captured the dynamics between teenagers. The dialogue is fast paced and constant, yet it is easy to follow and flows well. 

The Lesson is an excellent production that will doubtlessly go on to have a longer run in the future. The characters, themes and topics serve as a reminder and first step into urgent change needed to safe guard the youth and more vulnerable. It is currently playing at Theatre 503 until the 3rd of February, for more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Tian Brown-Sampson


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