Education Education Education at Trafalgar Studios
All aboard the nostalgia school bus boys and girls! The year is 1997 and we’re meeting the students and teachers at Wordsworth Comprehensive School in an inventive new comedy Education, Education, Education.
Written collectively by the Wardrobe Ensemble, this is a striking and enjoyable 75-minute lesson in the scuffles of school life, with successful retro humour, non-stop activity and superb staff room banter, which cleverly subjects the audience to the many struggles of the 1990s education system.
The play is set the morning after that victory before when a grinning Tony Blair, leader of New Labour, has just won the general election by a landslide and become the UK’s next Prime Minister. Tony’s not the only one starting a new job; German teaching assistant Tobias informs us it’s his first day at Wordsworth, and he’s very excited. James Newton is delightfully deadpan, delivering his character’s soliloquies with wry observation and precision timing.
Unfortunately for our teaching newbie, it’s also the last day of year 11 and, as the other teachers tell him, it’s going to get very unruly when the students go stunt crazy in their efforts to disrupt and take over their school.
Education’s plot can at times feel more like a few common school situations too loosely hung together with a kickin’ 90s soundtrack, and a handful of the lines would only get a B-. However, top marks are handed out to the cast, each member playing both students and teachers with captivating energy and ease.
The creative team also deserve an A+. Overseen by co-directors Jesse Jones and Helena Middleton, every aspect of this production is top of the class, from the inventive lighting to the use of student photographs, smooth costume changes and enterprising interaction with simple props, such as tables – and what they can do with two large doors on rollers is truly mind-blowing – all combining to engross the audience in the texture of Wordsworth, and its many departments over the course of this day.
Wee see the familiar scenario of one teacher having to cover another’s lesson, in this case a very funny Ben Vardy as gym instructor Timothy Pashley, who is forced to take over French. There are also a couple of clashes at the school; kind and holistic Miss Belltop-Doyle (Jesse Meadows, giving a smashing performance with a little bit of spice) wants to inspire her students but Robocop wannabe and head of discipline Louise Turner (a fantastic Hanora Kamen), who sees her job as part sergeant, part zookeeper, wants to terrify hers. The other showdown is between a troublesome student, portrayed with superb sullenness by Emily Greenslade, and her “unfair” teacher Paul McIntyre (a tremendous Tom Brennan). Trying to hold all this together is the marvellous Hugh Mills as school head Tom England, an over-extended but still optimistic leader.
As a school trip down memory lane, Education, Education, Education, taken from one of Tony Blair’s many New Labour catchphrases, is a delight and effectively shines a light on the hope and belief that Things Can Only Get Better. It might not be for everyone but those who can remember the pressure of nurturing a Tamagotchi, the excitement of opening a Smash Hits magazine or shag bands will revel in getting this comedic blast of Cool Britannia once again.
Photo: James Bullimore
Education Education Education is at Trafalgar Studios from 3rd until 29th June 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.