JOYCE MCMILLAN on A PERFECT STROKE at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 7.4.14.
4 stars ***
IN AN AGE when sexual relations between teachers and student have become absolutely and rightly taboo, Johnny McKnight’s new lunchtime play for the Play, Pie and Pint season – first presented as a fragment at the Tron a couple of years ago, and due at the Traverse from tomorrow – boldly goes where few would now dare to tread, into an exploration of the undoubted sexual frisson that can arise between an attractive teacher, and a young pupil.
Over a memorable intense and perceptive 50-minutes, Anita Vettesse plays Ms Stone, a tired and possibly lonely drama teacher who inspires her pupils at the cost of her own emotional and physical exhaustion. So when 16-year-old Thomas arrives for a post-school tutorial session on how to present Romeo’s great “But soft what light from yonder window breaks.. “ soloiloquy, she perhaps sends out some dangerously mixed signals to a boy at an explosive age; she certainly seems hostile to Thomas’s loud perma-tanned girlfriend Carly, hilariously played by Dani Heron.
When the situation gets out of hand, though, and Thomas attempts a clumsy kiss, the relationship between student and teacher suddenly shifts; and a tense and frightening power-struggle develops, as Thomas threatens Ms Stone with exposure, and reveals himself as a disturbed and desperately vulnerable boy. McKnight’s script is both sharp and tender, brilliantly observed; Anita Vettesse and Scott Reid are superb in the two leading roles. And the play leaves some uncomfortable questions unanswered: about how, if we are sexual beings, we can ever completely exclude sexual feelings from the teaching situation, without lying both to our young people, and to ourselves.