Trafalgar Studios, London – until 29 June 2019
The Wardrobe Ensemble’s comedy effectively reveals just how issues in education have evolved and changed since 1997.
If you are looking for a show that consistently refers to a tamagotchis (and how not to look after it), mentions the Macarena, deals with different approaches to teaching while featuring some classic 90s songs – then this is the production for you.
This warmly affectionate and nostalgic show devised by The Wardrobe Ensemble, particularly focuses on the pressures on the education system and the increasing lack of funding. Taking place during the final days of term and with Tony Blair having just been elected as Prime Minister, Education, Education, Education sees a group of teachers struggling to make it through the day with disruptive students, troublesome tamagotchis and pressure to keep students engaged with their classes not helped due to a lack of funding.
Co-directed by Jesse Jones and Helena Middleton, the show balances the comedy with a more serious and thoughtful reflections that highlight just how much pressure has been placed on schools, teachers and students over the years. In particular, the final speech made by German language assistant Tobias (a wonderfully dry-witted performance from James Newton) informing the audience of what happened to the school in the years that followed makes a strong impact on the audience. The show is dotted with moments such as these, never being too heavy handed with the politics of it all.
The show is more predominantly focused on the more comical and nostalgic elements, which in places feel a little bit too chaotic and out of place considering the play’s core message about the pressure on the education system. But despite this, this is a show that shows the contrasting relationships between teachers and their students and the staff room politics to great effect. There is a great energy throughout that makes it easy for the audience to throughly engage and at times sympathise with the characters.
In terms of performances, the cast transform from teacher to student with relative ease and offer some some lovely moments. James Newton as the upright and dry humoured Tobias (who acts as narrator) is particularly delightful to watch as he makes observations about Britain and is in the end the only one who can connect with troubled student Emily. Meanwhile, Jesse Meadows as the strict and disciplined Sue offers a effective performance and Emily Greenslade as Emily is wonderfully sharp and sincere throughout.
Yes, there are times when it seems as though the production gets too carried away with nostalgia, but it is an affectionate and quirky show that will delight those looking for a genuinely funny trip to the theatre.
By Emma Clarendon
Education, Education, Education will play at the Trafalgar Studios until the 29th June. To book tickets click here or visit: Love Theatre.com, Encore Tickets, From the Box Office, Last Minute.com or Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk.