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Review | The new ‘energetic and provocative’ play ‘Admissions’ asks questions about diversity

The play is on at Trafalgar Studios

By Steve Brown

Words: Matthew Todd

Joshua Harmon’s energetic and provocative new play, Admissions, asks questions about how authentic white liberal commitment to ‘diversity’ is.

Alex Kingston (famous for her stint in American drama ER) stars as Sherri, the head of admissions at a prestigious American prep school, Hillcrest, at which her son Charlie (Ben Edelman) is studying with the hope of getting into Yale.

Sherri is on a mission to increase diversity at Hillcrest and the entire education system – it’s her and her husband’s number one concern – but apparently not at the expense of her own son.

When it emerges that Charlie has not gotten into Yale, in a spiral of angst and self-pity, he rails at the policy of positive discrimination, ranting that he is being made to feel guilty about being white, and culminating with his belief that his friend Perry, son of his mother’s best friend, only got into Yale because he is black.

Whether Sherri with all her passion for getting more students of colour into Hillcrest agrees is explored up until the point that her son turns things on their head by trying to test how real his parent’s commitment to diversity and racial justice really are.

Arriving here from the US, it has divided audiences, some of whom cheer and hoot through Charlies most epic of epic monologues but has been criticised by others who think that it suggests that liberals are the problem and glosses over the very real problems of discrimination in America.

The play is perhaps a bit too shouty and we don’t find out enough about Sherri and her husband in particular, who has some very funny lines, but never get to understand or care about them enough.

But it’s funny, challenging and steps outside of the theatrical bubble to ask questions of its liberal audience as well as everyone else. By the end of the play, it has provoked discussions that continue long after the curtain has come down.

Rating: 4*

Admissions is on at Trafalgar Studios. For the best deals on tickets click here.