Trafalgar Studios, London – until 29 June 2019
It’s 1997, the day after the General Election. Tony Blair has just swept Labour to victory, the UK won the Eurovision (remember that) and Britpop is riding high. There is a feeling of optimism and pride in the country. I remember it well.
At Wordsworth Comprehensive, where the textbooks are 15 years old, the teachers feel it too, election promises of extra funding – Blair’s mantra of Education, Education, Education – has got some of them in a bit of a giddy mood.
Year 11 is feeling giddy too. It is the last day before they start revision leave but with exams feeling a long way off the atmosphere is more end of term. Staff room politics over teaching styles and levels of discipline are set to clash with teenage exuberance just as parents are due to arrive for the leavers’ assembly.
A newly arrived German teaching assistant with a penchant for the Spice Girls and Take That acts both as an observer and commentator on the time and occasionally a calming outsider voice. The cast plays both teachers and teenagers accompanied by a jukebox of favourite tunes from the time – and a backdrop of school photos.
Riotous in tone, occasionally chaotic but with an inventive playfulness Education, Education, Education successfully captures the optimism of the time but it isn’t just nostalgia.
Twenty-two years on from the year in which it is set, there is quiet potency to lines about joining the Euro by 2001 and Tony Blair not being the Messiah. There is an irony to the German teaching assistant’s jealousy of the culture, vibrancy and pride of Britain at the time and the anthem ‘Things Can Only Get’ better.
Was it really as good as we remember and were promises delivered? The Wardrobe Ensemble collectively devised Education, Education, Education and while the story occasionally gets overshadowed by its celebratory style, it is a fun, entertaining and toe-tapping piece of theatre.
I’m giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.
See it at Trafalgar Studios until June 29 and it’s 75 minutes long without an interval.
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