We are greeted with a medley of 90’s dance music as we take our seats and I almost expect someone to come around distributing glow sticks as we play at spotting the obvious children of the 90’s, who are smiling nostalgically as they discreetly dance in their seats.
The show opens with the introduction of Tobias, a German language assistant who firmly sets the time and place as ‘Wordsworth Comprehensive School’ in May 1997. England is the envy of Europe; we are wearing our national identity on our sleeve and the spirit of the country is high (especially within the teaching community) as there is a new Labour government in force. England has just won Eurovision and people are smiling, they are hopeful for a brighter future and what’s more, turkey twizzlers are on the menu!
There is a real sense of new beginnings as Tobias poses the philosophic questions, Who are we? What do we want? “Who do you think you are?” A collaboration of Socrates and The Spice Girls that one could never have imagined! So begins the fast-paced and dynamic production of Education Education Education!
The cast of teachers are quickly and clearly introduced, each bringing a different and easily identifiable character to the stage as we are thrust immediately into the rich and chaotic life of a typical school day, in a typical 90’s comprehensive by means of the simple yet highly effective set design. The story beautifully illustrates the ideologies of the education system – the hopes, the dreams, the potential and the promise which are only to be curtailed and quashed by the harsh realities of inadequate funding, a crippling curriculum and teachers who are over-worked and under-paid.“It doesn’t matter how much fun they’re having as long as they get the grades.”
This is a very powerful piece of theatre which fluctuates between high moments of fantastic comedy and low moments of poignant despair. There are symbolic references to feelings of ‘treading water,’ ‘swimming against the tide’ and ‘drowning’ which are beautifully and hypnotically depicted in several ‘slo-mo’ scenes throughout the performance. The whole production is choreographed to flow seamlessly, with great perception and cohesion as we return full circle to the ponderings of Socrates. Why are we here? Why are you here?
However, we now have a greater understanding and appreciation of all this questioning – questions are to be encouraged and nurtured. For by answering these questions, we can build a better self, a better society, a better world.
“Must try harder” is not applicable in this school report thanks to the superb efforts of every single one of the seven-strong cast. However, I feel that a special mention should go out to our German friend Tobias; who stitched the whole show together with his matter-of-fact, droll humour and sensitivity.
Overall, a hugely entertaining and provocative piece – a raw and honest production with a real and yet hopeful message.