Review: Class, Tristan Bates Theatre

Class is a piece which attempts to utilise verbatim theatre to portray the truth behind the stereotypes attached to the label of working class. However, beyond the witty energy of the acting duo, the play itself lacks detail and needs to explore a broader range of perspectives to really address the depth of the issue it is trying to tackle. 

Class is a collection of three interviews with self-identifying working class people: a pair of handymen, a troubled youth turned soldier and two identical twin chefs. We listen in turn to these recordings via Alyce Louise-Potter and Kelsey Short, who deliver the script by being fed the text through headphones.  They relay the interviewee’s answers on questions surrounding the definition of working class, which debunk myths and share unfiltered accounts of their own personal experiences. The recorded delivery style of verbatim theatre makes the script charming in its candour, but with the two actors just sat repeating the lines being played through the headphones, the play sacrifices any sense of theatrical style for the sake of being real and raw. The stories we hear have so much life to them, but I feel this has caused a lack of imagination in the staging of the show, with the company relying on the natural likeability of the recordings to make the play a success. I believe that the play’s director Xander Mars needs to create a clearer vision of the journey of this piece, so it can transition from what feels like a rehearsed reading to a piece of theatre that better showcases the play’s message and utilises the clear talent of the performers onstage. 

Potter and Short are the heart and soul of this piece and are the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of this play’s future development. They bring an element of theatrical flair to the script, which I only wish would be supported by the other elements of the show. Their chemistry is the spark that now needs to be fuelled until it becomes a fully burning blaze, a feat which their obvious passion for this project is definitely able to achieve.

This play would benefit from paying much more attention to the design of the piece; currently the only accredited design role is Ali Armstrong’s lighting design which, much like the set and costume, is too generic to make an impact on the audience’s experience. I don’t think both the script and the design can afford to be so minimalist — a more imaginative set and costume design would give this show new dimensions, without  which, I am left wanting.  

This play makes two things clear to me: firstly, that this show has huge potential — its subject matter is worthy of attention and it is exciting to see such a motivated pair of writers and performers in Potter and Short — and secondly, that this piece remains in the development stage of its journey. I think this company needs to decide whether they want to create a play on this topic or a showing of various artistic interpretations on this subject. The talent is there onstage in front of me, but they are yet to decide how best to utilise those skills.

Class is playing the Tristan Bates Theatre until 3 August. For more information and tickets, see The Actor’s Centre website.