The Disappointed by Frances Poet

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The Disappointed by Frances Poet. Dir. Gaynor Macfarlane. Perf. Maureen Beattie, Brian Vernel. BBC Radio Scotland, 18 Feb. 2015. BBCiPlayer to 20 Mar. 2015.

The ordeal of obtaining a university place can often be stressful. Educators spend time and energy trying to get the best out of their learners; the learners spend endless evening after evening revising, and then have to show their academic prowess in three-hour exams, as well as through portfolios. Then comes the agonizing wait for the results; followed by the day they are announced. Sometimes expectations are fulfilled: learners obtain the right grades to enter the institution of their choice. On other occasions they are disappointed and have to go through the lottery of clearing in an attempt to find an academic hole to put their heads into.

The ordeal was much the same over thirty-five years ago when I applied to university. In Frances Poet's taut little two-hander, Jack (Brian Vernel) experienced much the same emotions. Having spent much of his time working hard for the exams under the tutelage of devoted teacher Carol (Maureen Beattie), he discovered to his cost that he had not obtained the requisite grades. The only outlet he could find was to drown his sorrows, and at the same time blame Carol for having spent too much time working with him. Was she really disappointed for him, as she claimed, or was she simply disappointed in herself that she had somehow failed to fulfill her duties as an educator?

Gaynor Macfarlane's production refused to answer that question. Eventually the emotional dust settled, and Jack found a place to study. Meanwhile Carol made a life-changing decision, one that surprised Jack but in her view it was the right thing to do. "The Disappointed" did not make any moral judgements, but showed instead how the process of entering university doesn't just involve learners and their families, but educators as well (if they ate sufficiently dedicated, that is).