CLASS has received rave reviews wherever it plays. Here we speak to actor Sarah Morris about finding humour in challenging situations
A parent-teacher meeting has disastrous consequences in CLASS, a play about learning difficulties, in school and in life. The play follows parents Brian and Donna, who have a nine-year-old son who is having difficulties. When his teacher suggests he see a psychologist, Brian and Donna, are hesitant to trust him.
Sarah Morris, the Irish Times Theatre Awards Best Actress Winner, plays Donna. Here, she talks us through the experience of bringing this real parenting nightmare to the stage with a pinch of humour.
Sarah, this play will pull the heartstrings for a lot of people with family members with learning difficulties, how does it feel to work with this subject matter on stage?
I think the writers David and Iseult have handled this subject matter very diplomatically throughout the play. We meet five characters in total, which allows the audience to see a variation of attitudes toward learning difficulties: be it a passing remark that may affect someone deeply or even a fear of engaging with help. The play depicts how learning difficulties affect many people from various ages and backgrounds regardless of the severity of a case. Every character is grappling at a point with either the stigma of having a learning difficulty, or how exactly to address someone who may be experiencing learning difficulties (which is a very delicate matter).
In the case of Donna, she is trying to cope with a learning difficulty that she never really understood resulting in a lack of confidence in herself and a more defensive approach. Although she is intelligent, she has a tendency to evade actually addressing her personal relationship with education. With Kaylie she’s wanting attention from people due to her frustration with her newly diagnosed learning difficulty, and ultimately she just wants reassurance and guidance going forward.
What is it like bringing humour to this plot?
The play is full of humour its very true to life, very human really, audiences recognize the characters and their mannerisms, either in themselves or someone else. So for me it’s really about committing 100% to the character to allow that to happen; how they move, talk, laugh and behave. Donna is a very funny woman but she is pretty unaware that she is, that in itself is funny. How exactly do you talk to a “figure of authority” what are the rules and social etiquette?
There are plenty of moments of awkwardness and confusion particularly at the start of the play with misunderstandings and misreading of the situation. That’s the real beauty of the play. Both comically and dramatically.
The kids bring the most humour, how they speak and engage with one another. How unaware they may be at a moment in time or even completely lost in themselves. Their inability to be subtle and their extraordinary ability to pry and poke into someones life in a completely charming and innocent manner. The kids are great to play and as quick and sharp as anything.
How did it feel to win Best Actress at the Irish Times Theatre Awards?
Ah it’s an amazing feeling. The night happened so fast it’s hard to take it all in to be honest, and everything after that goes so fast, you’re back in rehearsal or work and you find yourself saying ‘did that actually happen?’ The Lost O ‘Casey was one of those amazing gigs that comes around once in a blue moon that carves a place in your heart. It was really just the Icing on the cake to win. My nanny is actually minding my award for me as I just moved house. Otherwise everything just stays the same, you just keep your foot to the pedal and keep auditioning and looking forward to the next character you get to play.
How does it feel as an actor to get the chance to be part of a smash hit show, and then to get to bring that show to audiences nationwide?
CLASS has been an amazing play to work on, we have been lucky to get to take it to so many theatres and cities both here and abroad, while also achieving some really lovely milestones along the way. I think its really important that wherever you live you get to engage with theatre, and support Irish playwrights and companies. So I am delighted that people that may have not been given the chance to see the show before will have the opportunity to catch it this time round.
What else is in the pipeline for you?
There a couple of things in the mix for me for next year. I recently appeared in a new pilot for RTE1 called Headcases. It’s a comedy/drama Written By Charleigh Bailey which aired in November this year. The writing is great and it has a cracking cast and team involved so we’re hoping it gets the go ahead and we get to bring you the rest of the season early next year.
CLASS remaining dates:
- 15 November: Solstice Arts Centre, Navan
- 16 November: Moat Theatre, Naas
- 20 November: Axis, Ballymun
- 26-28 November: Civic, Tallaght
- 29 -30 November: Draiocht, Blanchardstown
Tickets on sale now. See local venues for booking details.