NIGEL WILLIAMS Class Enemy
A play first performed at the Theatre Upstairs on 9 March 1978 and at the Royal Court Theatre on 4 April, 1978. It is a contemporary play in prose which consists of two acts.
SWEETHEART: He is a student around sixteen, pretty and smart. He is also the most intelligent and reflexive of them all.
RACKS: He is a thin youngster of the same age as them all. He is a little bit harder than the others.
NIPPER: Another sixteen-year-old student. He dresses and tries to behave as a punk rocker, so he wears his uniform distorted to the point not to be a uniform. He has some racist and xenophobe ideas to which he tries to bring his mates on. “Everyone. Iss why we’re in ver shit. On account of ver blacks”.
SKY-LIGHT: He is another of the classmates. He will get strongly opposed to Iron’s pride and ordering in the class, which will carry them to a big quarrel.
IRON: He is another student even though he is big and does not seem to be one. He will be considered like the boss of them all. He has an aggressive, violent and impulsive way of acting. He considers himself the best of them all and the one who can teach them all things better than a teacher: “Me. I’m ejucation fer fuckin’ anyone”. However, he would have his special education system as he states “…we don’t want no books”.
SNATCH: He is another of the young students. He has some West Indian roots. He is an amiable boy even though he is not very awake.
The play is about a group of boys in a thoroughly vandalised South London schoolroom. Six teenage boys so terrible that nobody is prepared to teach them...They are waiting for the arrival of a teacher who never seems likely to appear. Then a kind of tribal ritual is self-imposed by the group, forming a natural hierarchy. Left alone in the vandalised classroom of their almost destroyed school, they go where no schoolchildren have gone before. Then, Iron attempts to make his colleagues give a five minute ‘lesson’, in the name of passing the time. Nipper starts with his lesson speaking about his father, who drinks “Ten fucking bottles a’ cider a night”. Sweetheart follows him and talks about sex till he gets to nonsense and ends up telling a joke. At Rack’s turn, he hesitates about what to talk about until he finally talks about gardening and winder boxes. Afterwards, the master comes in class looking for Cameron, Snatch who he takes with him. Then he tells them there is no teacher prepared for them. Nipper starts his lesson which is about the blacks and the way in which they are guilty for everything in his opinion. Snatch comes back and they receive them as a war hero. Later, he tells them about the best thing he can do, smashing big windows. By this point, Skylight and Iron start quarrelling. Skylight hits Iron on the face. Iron does not hit him. Finally Skylight starts his lesson which will deal with how to prepare an English dish: Bread and butter Pudding. He tells them his parents are both blind and Iron laughs at it. Iron provokes Skylight into a violent confrontation. Therefore, events culminate in a fierce fight which will interrupted by the arrival of the Master. They insult and chase out the master. Then it is turn for Iron’s lesson which will deal with self-defence. Sweetheart comes back to class. Afterwards the school closes.
SPACE: The play occurs in a school class in the South of London.
TIME: The play starts one day at 14:30 and it is for the author emplaced in the present.
LITERARY RESOURCES: We can not find literary resources itselves, but we can see for example a use of “vulgar” language with abbreviations and use of apostrophe “ I saw’er”.
An impressing portrayal of youth’s reality in a marginal situation. The play relates the world in which youngsters live when not controlled by anyone. A world which has its own hierarchy, rules and masters. A world where sometimes violence is completely fair. Therefore, there is shown the way these young boys who nobody can tame, have their own little wars which could end in real tragic events. Teachers do not care about them any more. They just consider themselves a problem without solution. The master even says that instead of into school they should be on the streets, “isn’t that what police are for”. They assume they will sooner or later end up walking the streets and commiting crimes.
Some have found connections with the plot of this play and works like the Lord of the flies, where children play in an adult’s way to finally commit adult atrocities. It is like they tried to behave like adults without being able to do it. They have their heroes, masters and even their lessons to teach each other. But they are still too young have a real concept of living in society. Therefore, their innocent childlike minds are turned into evil and reckonless which can only obey to their childish feelings and desires.
I found also remarkable to state the language used in the play. A language based on a supposed strong low-class London accent. Therefore, the text is written in a graphemic transcription of that pronunciation. This makes the reader get into a more different world. Quite a different tough world where not even the English is the one we are used to.
Academic year 2005/2006
© a.r.e.a./Dr.Vicente Forés López
© Aina García Coll
Universitat de València Press