Jesse Meadows chatted to Emma Clarendon about bringing The Wardrobe Ensemble’s Education Education Education to the Trafalgar Studios, where it runs from 31 May to 29 June 2019, including a post-show Q&A chaired by Mates co-founder Terri Paddock on 3 June.
What’s Education Education Education about?
Education Education Education is set over the course of a day in a struggling secondary state school in 1997. New Labour have just had a landslide election win. It’s the last day of term and we follow the teachers as chaos ensues. Amongst many things, the play explores the ways state education has changed over the intervening years, fairness, history, nostalgia, the optimism of youth. It’s a love letter to the schools of the 1990s and asks big questions about a country in special measures, what we are taught and why, and where responsibility lies.
What was the process of developing the piece?
As a company, we devise our own shows. This means we start with a theme or idea that interests us and then research, develop and rehearse it over weeks, months, and even years until it becomes the script the audience sees in front of them. Education Education Education is set on the day that Tony Blair comes into power, so it was really interesting to think about that time in history. A few days before we’d even won Eurovision!
We were really interested in the hope and positivity, the promise and excitement that united the country. The script is funny and poignant and full of 90s references – with everything from Cool Britannia to Britpop, Tamagotchis to Take That. We play a lot with the idea of nostalgia in the show and how we, as a society, look back at our past. It’s really fun to take the audience with us on that journey.
What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you think of the 90s?
The music! Boy bands. Girl bands. House anthems. We use a lot of great 90s music in the show. It’s amazing how powerful it is for transporting you somewhere else. The importance of music for young people, and, especially in the 90s with Britpop, makes our relationship with music instantly political. The election anthem Things Can Only Get Better inevitably wrote itself into the play.
What was it about the 90s you liked the most?
I was all over the 90s fashion as a kid; butterfly clips, shag bands, matching trackies with stripes, begging my parents to buy me platform shoes like the ones The Spice Girls wore (whilst simultaneously trying to keep my Tamagotchi alive). It’s such a fun era to play with.
What else can audiences expect?
Teachers desperately trying to get through the day. A school in chaos. 90s nostalgia, political poignancy, slick and energetic ensemble work, and a whole lot of feelgood fun.
How do you feel about bringing the production to the West End?
I can’t wait! It’s been an incredible journey for us as a company and I couldn’t be prouder. It’s very surreal considering how rare it is to see devised work on the West End – so it feels a real achievement.
Education Education Education runs from 31 May to 29 June 2019 at Trafalgar Studios 1, 14 Whitehall, London SW1A 2DY, with performances Mondays to Saturdays at 7.30pm, matinees on Thursdays and Saturdays at 2.30pm. Tickets are priced £25-45. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!