It’s May 1997. Tony Blair has won the general election and Katrina and the Waves have won Eurovision. We become witness to a typical day at Wordsworth Comprehensive. Things are about to get so much better, right?
The play opens with a comic monologue from Tobias (James Newton), the German language assistant, who is an outsider on the inside. He narrates the story as well as hilariously interacting with the audience – you can tell this production isn’t going to be naturalistic from the get-go. The combination of music, lighting and movement create a cinematic energy, with the introduction to Wordsworth Comprehensive’s staff room like the introduction to the police staff in Hot Fuzz. This show appeals to a quintessentially British sense of humour, with the slick and speedy transitions using mobile doors resembling Green Wing. The underscore is perfectly fitting for the 90s setting, as well as always being used to propel the comedy, such as having a soundtrack for each academic subject. This production is a prime example of exceptional direction, with attention to every detail.
in teaching – no day is the same
Yet this play is not just for those who attended school on the cusp of the millennium. Education is incredibly poignant in its representation of the school environment. We witness amusing ‘teacher’ archetypes such as the screamer, the over-enthusiastic pushover, the clueless headteacher and the hopeless staffroom romantic. The characterisation is the perfect balance between recognisable stereotypes whilst creating real, nuanced characters. The pressures on UK education such as results, lack of funding and teachers being overloaded are portrayed in the story of a mere day, showing that in teaching – no day is the same.
The Wardrobe Ensemble present rich metaphors whilst being comically self-conscious. With the use of old school photos of the cast, a soundtrack for a mock epic, and the ghost of King Arthur satire and gags are used to profoundly portray the pressures on both teachers and students. Without spoiling too much, the show provides a hopeful conclusion, hinting that even problem students can find success despite having gaps in their education. We see this with an outstanding performance from Emily Greenslade.
teachers have seen the aftermath of Blair-era optimism and downfall
Education is a fast-paced comedy as well as a poignant drama. The writing is rich and dynamic, with the performances unanimously outstanding. The story may be set in the 90s, but the Wardrobe Ensemble have hit a nerve with the political climate of Britain today. In particular, teachers have seen the aftermath of Blair-era optimism and downfall. To be nit-picky, a minor criticism would be the some frequent blocking errors with actors being blocked in the semi-thrust space.
Education, Education Education wholeheartedly deserves its stellar reputation at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017. Don’t miss it.
Education, Education, Education is showing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, information and tickets here.
Image: The Wardrobe Ensemble