Invisible force controlling events

Scientific approach: Nigel Hastings as science teacher David and Ashley Hunter as Kyle.

Gravity

Birmingham Rep

MAC, Birmingham

****

A TEACHER on the edge, a school facing inspection, a group of troubled pupils and a science class make for an explosive new drama by Wolverhampton playwright Arzhang Pezhman.

A former science teacher in a Wolverhampton secondary school, Pezhman knows only too well the stresses faced in the classroom today and brings them to the fore with devastating effect in Gravity.

But Pezhman is also looking well beyond the classroom with some of the questions raised in this work. Drawing on allusions to the dangerous mix of matter and antimatter and the investigations being carried out in the Hadron Collider buried under European soil, he is placing the uncertainties faced by the protagonists on a cosmic level.

While the youngsters learn that not every question has an answer, the adults learn that sometimes those questions are better left unasked.

And at its heart is Pezhman's key dilemma: ‘if we could go back in time, would we change things?'

He highlights this point incredibly skilfully by playing with the time frame in the production. Opening after the event, the drama then takes us back, adding in the clues and red herrings like a cleverly layered detective novel, until we reach the point where the classroom tips over into violence.

Rebecca Loudon as Chantay and Boris Mitkov as her boyfriend Reece, the school bully

Presented by Birmingham Repertory Theatre at mac, Gravity centres on David (Nigel Hastings), a science teacher with a passion for his subject but whose anxiety makes it difficult for him to control his students.

David's well-intentioned interest in pupil Kyle (Ashley Hunter) who displays a keen interest in science, goes awry when the teenager attempts a disastrous experiment at home. With Kyle also the target of the school bully Reece (Boris Mitkov) the tenuous relationship between mentor and pupil fractures.

And, with the school desperate to keep the lid on any disruption as it undergoes inspection, the classroom becomes a pressure cooker.

Pezhman subtly reminds us of the hazards of a science lesson as youngsters kit up in goggles and gloves to face the Bunsen burners - while all the time the real danger is to come from another direction.

Despite its seemingly bleak subject matter, Gravity does also have its injections of humour, particularly in school mentor Kathy (Imogen Slaughter) whose total failure to control her students' behaviour is to lead to disastrous consequences. Her solution to send Reece and his girlfriend Chantay (Rebecca Loudon) on an abseiling course as a ‘punishment' evokes a bitter laugh from the audience.

At 90 minutes long, Gravity has a rapid moving, almost gunfire, presentation with a set which can be shifted quickly and a brash score featuring excerpts from singers such as Beyoncé and Rihanna.

It may be short but it is concentrated, with the cast of five giving strong performances in all of the roles. To 03-03-12

Diane Parkes

Gravity is at Bromsgrove Artrix on Mar 21 and Wolverhampton Arena on Mar 22. 

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