We spoke to playwright Tamsin Oglesby about Future Conditional, her favourite teacher and what it’s like to be working at The Old Vic.
What is Future Conditional about?
It’s about education and those in the thick of it; parents, experts, and students themselves and how it defines and divides us as a society.
What prompted you to write it?
My son, aged eight, begging for a tutor in the same way a child begs for an Xbox. As he felt the peer pressure, so we as parents experienced the competition, the inequality and the sheer madness that began to stalk the playground. Our experience of trying to get our children into any school at all (never mind a good school) was much worse than anything I’d anticipated or prepared for. I became fascinated by the light – or rather, shadow – it threw on the whole nature and purpose of education. I couldn’t not write about it.
How did you become a playwright?
I started out as a director and did a lot of work on new writing at the Royal Court. For the most part I don’t think it’s a good idea for writers to direct their own plays and so was only too happy to hand over my first. My writing work gathered pace and so I went with it.
What is it like working with Matthew Warchus on his first season at The Old Vic?
A joy and a privilege. He and I have been working on this play for a few years now and I honestly couldn’t be more thrilled that it’s found it’s home here and at this point in the new season.
Who was your favourite teacher at school and why?
My favourite teacher at school was my English teacher. She was actually quite brusque and I’m not even sure she liked me very much but she was honest and subversive. She once told me off for writing ‘purple prose’ – I can still feel the shame- and introduced the class to Tom Lehrer in an anarchic lesson I’ve never forgotten.
The Old Vic is offering half the seats in the theatre at just £10 for the first five performances thanks to PwC £10 Previews. How important is it to you to make theatre accessible to everyone?
Essential. Crucial. Vital. Theatre is not the preserve of the few. I deplore the division of culture into high and low and where theatre seems to end up in that ranking. Theatre at its best is thought provoking, entertaining, challenging, exciting. The fact that it’s generally cheaper than going to see a football match – which I love and is most of those things too – is great and promising for a younger, much broader audience than usual.
Do you have a favourite scene?
That’s a bit like asking if I have a favourite child! (And I don’t by the way). I love the scenes equally, and of course you can’t have one without the other, but without giving anything away – I do like the comically bad behaviour that emerges in the second half just as I like the melancholy bravery of Alia and Crane’s exchange in the first.
What can the audience expect if they’re coming to see Future Conditional?
To laugh, to cry, to think; I would be very happy if they feel moved to do all three.