|Photo: Marc Brenner|
Interview with 'A Level Playing Field' writer and director Jonathan Lewis
What is the play about and what is the inspiration behind it?
I was inspired by listening to my son’s experiences of A Levels and the pressure that he was under and the obsession with grades and testing. It felt to him that this one snapshot in time was somehow going to define his whole education. And I thought that is so wrong.
It is the first part of an education trilogy. I wanted to write from the students’ point of view, but I also wanted to write about the parents. The third part is set in schools and is about the business of schools and league tables.
How is it set?
When there is a clash on the exam timetable, you have to go into exam isolation. I wanted to set it in that isolation because it seemed perfect. There is no technology, you have to sit in the room and wait. I think that is the perfect place to set a play, in one room… the clock ticking.
They have done their penultimate exam, so it is partly about the fall out of how they think they did. They also have the trepidation of the final exam coming up and the feeling of an end of an era, leaving school after so long.
Why is the theme of education so important?
Learning for learning’s sake is not valid anymore, it must be graded, it has to have a result. So, education is becoming a commodity. And schools are businesses.
The idea of learning being a commodity is a terrible thing because you get kids who stop being curious. Learning is now all about getting an A or and A* so you learn how to get the A* rather than actually learn about a subject. All these ramifications were playing in my head.
I have been greatly inspired by Ken Robinson and his idea of bringing creativity into every subject. This play is my contribution to try and make some kind of change
As the writer, what are the main things you are hoping to bring out on the stage?
I think because I am also an actor, I want to be in a play where I think “gosh I want to play any of those roles” and that really sparks me as a writer. I wanted to write something which I consider symphonic and has a sense of a Greek chorus. I tend to write musically, there is a rhythm and a specific energy to the cadence and the language. I wanted it to be almost like conducting an orchestra, and that has been a technical challenge.
I also wanted to write something that has cracking parts for every actor. Within A Level Playing Field, everyone gets a moment to show what they can do, but it requires everyone else in those moments to support them. Everyone is really invested in it as a production, so that it becomes bigger than the sum of its parts.
At the end of the day, I wanted to write something which is entertaining, funny and moving where you come out feeling nourished.
Can you describe it in 3 words?
Passionate. Provoking. Playful.
Photo: Marc Brenner