You might think that Year 13, the final year of secondary school in England and Wales, is unlucky for some – and you’d be right. Here are three-quarters-of-an-hour of wild, unfortunate and ludicrous anxiety, that could well delight the producers of Bad Education (except that there’s no room for Mr Wickers). Six pupils have one lesson – that’s the 45 minutes of the title – in which to finish their online applications to uni. When the bell goes they have to SEND. How scary is that?
They are all in the same room, and all have one question to complete: “Write a Personal Statement that shows you’d be a great student”. 600 words max. OMG! LOL!! Aaaaah!!! The volume control is off and Lara is at centre stage, wailing for help. Darrell has an opening paragraph on why he must do ‘Management and Leisure’, while Alex fires it all up by asking why they’re bothering with university at all.
Clearly Forty-Five Minutes is designed for youth theatre, and Nottingham’s long established Flying High company make the most of it. It is appealing, all-out work. The young cast rant and rave and suffer at pace, and – as young people do – suddenly break off in sorry silence when some loose remark has gone way too far. The clever inclusion of two hapless Year 10s, writing up notes for a school assembly, offers the sixth-formers different, seemingly weaker, targets. But Michael and Louise, cutely distinguishable by their neat uniforms, are unafraid… which is a little foolish.
If you have never worked in a secondary school, then you’ll want the inspectors to go calling on this one, preferably unannounced. If, on the joyous other hand, you do know the classroom as a workplace, then these 45 minutes end up both fun and daft. The words are right: joshing and provocative, the phrasing just so, the body language nicely caught. And – I can vouch for this – there’s a lot of delight to be found in swivelling chairs on wheels.
However, playwright Anya Reiss must know that her Forty-Five Minutes could never happen for real. Schools sign off UCAS forms for their pupils. Yes, deadlines can be missed and frequently are, but to have just the one lesson to complete and send it… no. I therefore found it too implausible to be convincing, and I think I was supposed to be convinced by the distress in the room – although the manic last moments suggest that Reiss too knew that her drama needed a brush with the absurd.
An educational afterword: the closing date for UCAS applications to University for 2015 entry is 15 January, at 18:00 for the majority of courses. And in Scotland, thankfully, Year 13 is called S6.